Specialist conveyancing articles to inform you about conveyancing for a house or a flat; whether you already own your own home or if you are buying one. These are free to read and written by specialists in this area.

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Letter of regularisation for unauthorised building works

Buying a property that has been built without planning permission and/or building control sign off could mean you may not be able to continue on with your purchase without a letter of regularisation or indemnity insurance. For the seller the lack of official paperwork from the local council could be an inadvertent oversight, however the challenge the buyer faces is the lack of knowledge about the standard of the building work undertaken and whether they are safe and to current building control standards.

If you aren't sure of the different types of building work that require council sign off then click and read - Building Control Sign Off Explained.

Need more help then call our team of conveyancing specialists on 0333 344 3234 or email help@samconveyancing.co.uk.

What can you do if you are buying a property with no building control sign off?

Whether it be a single storey rear extension or a loft conversion, there are a number of issues that could lay hidden underneath the walls and floors. What normally happens during building works are regular sign-offs for the building work undertaken including the electrics, insulation, windows and room sizes. The challenge is that in order to check these building works after the work has been completed will require an intrusive inspection; in some cases in can be as bad as to pull the whole thing down and start again.

The options available to a buyer are:

1. Letter of regularisation; or
2. Lack of Building Control Sign Off Indemnity Insurance (read Should you get Building Regulations Indemnity Insurance)

The most common solution is to obtain indemnity insurance to protect against the removal of the unauthorised works and this normally satisfies the mortgage lender. However, this doesn't address whether the unauthorised works are safe, will cause you costly repair works in the future or affect your future resale value.

The best advice is to get the unauthorised works signed off by Building Control before you take legal ownership of the property (and take on the burden of addressing the unauthorised work in the future) - although getting a letter of regularisation can take a number of weeks - read more about this below.
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Letter of regularisation

Until recently, Building Regulations made no provision for the approval of unauthorised work and this created problems for buyers during the conveyancing process when they found that such work was identified. Building Regulations have overcome this issue by the introduction of the Regularisation procedure, whereby unauthorised work can be certified by Building Control, bringing it in line with the relevant Regulatory requirements.

Where unauthorised work has been carried out by the seller, with no notice given nor plans submitted, an application can be made to Building Control for a Regularisation Certificate (letter of regularisation). Regularisation applications can be made for both domestic and non-domestic works commenced on or after 11th November 1985. Building work that has been completed prior to this date is not covered by the Regularisation procedure.

How do you get a letter of regularisation?

The process of getting a letter of regularisation from Building Regulations is not a simple process and causes great inconvenience to both the seller and the buyer. Inspections undertaken by Building Regulations will be carried out to ascertain whether or not the unauthorised work complies with Building Regulations. This may necessitate an intrusive survey requiring opening up of the works, carrying out tests and/or sampling of materials. The seller is notified of any further work required to bring the building to the requisite standards in force when the original work was carried out. The seller will need to to get this work satisfactorily completed, or if no further work is necessary, a Regularisation Certificate will be issued.

Loft conversions and structural alterations, such as the removal of a chimney breast (click to find out more) are common alterations, which are overlooked with regards to Building Regulations. Not only will it prove difficult to sell your house, but also the building work may not comply with the regulations and you could be living in an unsafe building. The work in question may have to be opened up for inspection purposes; this will cause you inconvenience as well as time and money.

Whilst there is no legal requirement to apply for a Regularisation Certificate, there is very definitely a legal requirement to comply with Building Regulations. Failure in this regard is not only an offence in law but may create problems when the property changes ownership.

What is the cost of getting a letter of regularisation?

The costs payable to Building Regulations depends on the size of the unauthorised works; a single storey extension costs in the region of £300 to £500. For an exact cost you should contact your council's Building Regulations Department.

For most buyers it isn't the cost of retrospective regularisation that deters them from going this route, it is the time that it takes to get it. There are huge pressures during the conveyancing process, and having to get the seller to allow access to the council for a retrospective inspection may be difficult. Not only does the inspection require the council to intrusively check that works are completed correctly (leaving the seller to make good the works), it can take a few weeks to get an appoint from the council (you can also instruct a surveyor to undertake this work).

The majority of buyers take the view of getting indemnity insurance; both saving time and potential cost of getting a letter of regularisation (read more about Should you get Building Regulations Indemnity Insurance). The challenge with this is that you'll never know to what standard the building work was done (if it is dangerous) and you'll have to explain to the person you sell to why you don't have Building Control sign off.

Related Articles
Building Regulations
Planning Permission
Should you get building regulations indemnity insurance