Property sitting on incomplete house plans. SAM Conveyancing's guide on buying or selling a house with missing planning permission
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Missing Planning Permission

(Last Updated: 24/04/2024)
5 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Missing planning permission can sometimes cause problems for homeowners. There are different solutions for this, depending on whether you're buying or selling.
  • You can request retrospective permission, although if this is rejected, you will need to restore the property to its original state.
  • If 4 years have passed after the works and you were unaware you were committing a planning breach, you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate.


    Selling a house without planning permission

What happens if you didn't get planning permission?

Making changes to your property without getting planning permission from the Local Planning Authority is classed as a 'planning breach'. This applies in instances where:
  • permission has not been granted, yet the works are still carried out
  • permission has been granted with certain conditions and one or more of those are broken
Certain minor works carried out on properties do not require planning permission, as they fall under the permitted development rights, although some conditions may be imposed. Some seemingly minor works may still require planning permission, such as a href="/news/conveyancing/planning-permission-to-change-windows" title="Do You Need Planning Permission to Change Windows?">changing the windows. Permitted developments do not apply to flats, maisonettes or listed buildings.

Can you get in trouble for not getting planning permission?

A planning breach is not always illegal, therefore it cannot always get you into trouble. In most cases, you will be asked to undo all your work. However, problems arise when the breach occurs after the planning application has already been rejected. In this case, you might suffer serious legal consequences.

Can you sell a house that doesn't have planning permission?

Issues arise when you start to consider selling a house without planning permission. Any potential buyers may be put off by the missing permission and they may not want to take on the risk. You could benefit from solving this before trying to sell and thankfully, there are a few solutions.

The easiest would be to get retrospective permission, but this could take too long and if the application is rejected, you will be forced to restore the property to its original condition. This would cause you to lose your buyers. If the works have been completed for a number of years, you might be covered by the 'no planning permission 4 year rule'.

What is the 4 year rule in planning permission?

The 'no planning permission 4 year rule' rule protects you if you've built an extension more than 4 years ago, without realising you were committing a planning breach.

If no remedial action has been enforced within that time limit, the local planning authority may no longer have the right to do so. However, the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, which is currently under debate in the House of Commons, aims to extend this to 10 years.

What you can do if you're covered by the 4 year rule is apply for a 'Lawful Development Certificate' (LDC). This is an official certificate which states that no enforcement action can be taken against the development referred to in the certificate. The LDC will no longer be valid if you make any further changes to that development without getting planning permission.

Doing this ensures that if you're ever interested in selling a house without planning permission, the new owner will not face legal consequences because of it.


    Buying a house without planning permission

What happens if you buy a house that doesn't have planning permission?

Once your offer is accepted, the seller will have to provide all the necessary information and proof of permission in the Property TA6 Form. Alternatively, if you're not sure how to find old planning permission on the property, you can always get a planning report as an additional conveyancing search.

If you buy a house with missing planning permission, you will become liable for it. Should the planning authority enforce any remedial action, you will be responsible for restoring the property back to its original state, which could devalue it and cause you to suffer financial losses.

However, if you're buying a house without planning permission for extension, for example, there are ways you can ensure you will not inherit the liability. Before exchange of contracts you can ask the seller to do either of the following:

  • Get retrospective permission - if the application is rejected, however, remedial action will be enforced by the planning authority.
  • Get a Lawful Development Certificate - as mentioned above, if the seller was unaware that they needed planning permission and more than 4 yours have passed, this certificate will make the extension (or any relevant work) lawful.
  • Get indemnity insurance for you
Either way, you could use this opportunity to negotiate the asking price. We give you tips on how to do this in our article - How to negotiate house price.

If you're buying using a mortgage, you might find that buying a property without planning permission is difficult. Your lender might refuse to grant you the mortgage or they might impose several conditions for you.

Planning to renovate the property you're buying?
Order a search and find out what has been approved, rejected or carried out in the last 10 years.

Planning Search
  • Includes planning applications for extensions on your property and on your neighbour's property within 100 metres, developments within 500 metres, properties that have had a change of use, awful development certificates as well as telecoms and planning restrictions.
  • Report delivered within 2 working hours*
  • Fixed fee of £72 INC VAT

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Laura Cristian - Digital Marketing Assistant - Meet the team - SAM Conveyancing
Written by:
Laura has a talent for data analysis and fact-finding. She is an advertising graduate with a broad range of skills in the web marketing field within conveyancing sector. She works closely with our panel of solicitors and surveyors to understand our clients' needs and challenges and to write the most valuable content for you.
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Reviewed by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands-on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.

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