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FAQs for homeowners

Q. Do I need to make a building regulation application when installing a controlled fitting in an exempt building?

A. Guidance from the former Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) in 2005 stated that if the building is a ‘small detached building’ as defined in Schedule 2 to the Building Regulations, then the regulations do not apply to either its erection or any subsequent work done to it so long as it remains a small detached building.

This has been more recently confirmed by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) where it was stated the situation has not changed and any work to controlled fittings is exempt. DCLG further advised the only control is with respect to Parts G and P in regulations 9(2) and (3) of the Building Regulations 2010.

Q. Will my building project need building regulation approval?

A. Most building projects - even small extensions, knock-throughs or improvements - need to comply with the building regulations. This applies in cases where planning permission is not needed. So it’s always best to ask for advice from your local council building control team.

Q. What about smaller improvements around the home?

A. Some types of minor building or improvement works like putting up sheds, car ports or porches do not need building regulation consent. The general rule is that if they are small (less than 30m2), are built of non-combustible material, are separated from nearby buildings or land and do not contain sleeping accommodation, they are exempt. Read Do  However it is always best to check with your local council building control team before starting work (or for a brief overview, visit Do I need a building regulations application?).

Other kinds of minor improvements - such as installing central heating can be carried out by ‘competent persons’. Visit the competent persons’ website.

Q. What is the difference between planning permission and building regulations?

A. Planning permission is more about deciding what may have an adverse effect on neighbouring properties and the wider environment. In contrast building regulations set standards for design and construction, with building control checking the work of builders and architects to make sure projects are built properly and that when complete they are safe and comfortable for people to live in. (Watch the video on this page: What's the difference between planning permission and building regulations.)

Q. How do I apply for building regulation approval?

A. Talk to your local council building control team which will be able to help you decide the most appropriate way to apply. There are generally two types of applications for building regulation approval: Full plans (usually for larger work) and Building Notices (usually for more minor works). For both of these, you will have to pay a fee to your local council. Or find out more by reading our guidance on starting building work.

Q. I’m thinking of selling my home – will I need approval for building work carried out before I owned the house?

A. If your home has been improved or extended by a previous owner, you will need to have the proper certification for it when you come to sell. If you do not have the relevant building certificates, then you can apply for ‘regularisation’ - retrospective approval. A local council building control surveyor will assess the work to see if it is up to standard and, if not, recommend improvements to bring it up to standard so they can issue the appropriate certificates. You will have to pay a fee to your local council. (View further information on regularisation.)

Q. How much will it cost?

A. That will depend on the nature of the project, the type of application and the local council area you live in. All local council building control teams are only permitted to recover the cost of the work they carry out, they do not make a profit on their services. This is in contrast to private ‘Approved Inspectors’ who are permitted to make profits on the work they undertake. Contact your local council building control team to get more information.

Q. So how does the approval process work?

A. When your application is approved by your local council building control team, you will usually be provided with an ‘Inspection Service Plan’ before you start work. This outlines the stages of work that require inspection. It will vary depending on the size and complexity of your project, age of your home, the construction type, ground conditions and your builder’s experience.

You’ll need to inform your local council building control team when you start and when you reach the stages outlined in your Inspection Service Plan so the surveyors can carry out site visits.

Once the work has been completed to the satisfaction of your local building control team, you will be issued with a ‘Completion Certificate’ to show all the work is up to standard.

Q. How long does it take to process an application?

A. For an application by Building Notice, there are no detailed plans to inspect and approve so you can start work as soon as the notice is accepted - usually within 48 hours. With a Full Plans application the plans have to be thoroughly examined before being approved. And by law a council must give a decision on an application within five weeks of receiving it (unless it is extended with your written consent), but usually it is  much less than this time.

Approval of building plans lasts for three years and if you don’t start work in that time your council may serve you with a notice declaring your plans “of no effect”– meaning you will need to submit a fresh application.

Q. Can I appeal if my Full Plans application is rejected?

A. Plans can only be rejected because they do not meet the technical requirements of the building regulations. If so, your council will let you know and give you the chance to resubmit amended plans. If you do not agree with the council’s interpretation of the regulations, you can appeal to the Secretary of State for a Determination. (Also watch: What happens if I don't get the permission I need?)

Q. Do I need to tell my neighbours about my building plans?

A. Yes. You should discuss any proposed building work with those neighbours who are most likely to be affected – either by the finished structure or the building process through things like noise or dust.

And if the work involves shared walls or boundaries you may also need to get your neighbour’s formal agreement through a party wall agreement. See DCLG guidance.

Q. What should I do if work has gone wrong?

A. If the complaint is about your own building work, you should initially raise it with your builder. You should always use a reputable builder who is a member of a trade association - such as the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). The association has a published complaints procedure, which sets out what you can do if your building work has gone wrong.

Local council building control teams inspect building work and certify it meets building standards. If they find work is not up to minimum legal standards they have the power to require the builder to bring it up to the required level. So if you have concerns about the quality of work on your building site you should contact the local council building control team to discuss your concerns.

For general advice on consumers’ rights about building work contact the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

Q. Are there any penalties for not complying with the building regulations?

A. Yes. If your local council building control team judges the work not up to standard it has powers to order you to pull down or alter the work. Serious and persistent cases of failure to meet building standards can result in legal action and a fine.

Q. What are the building regulations and where can I get a copy of the documents?

A. View a full explanation of the building regulations.  Or,

Guidance in the documents is not statutory and does not have to be followed. If you wish to design and construct your building work in some other way, you may do so providing you can show that it still complies with the relevant requirements of the regulations.

The guidance in the Approved Documents will be taken into account when considering whether your plans of proposed work, or work in progress, comply with particular requirements. In addition, there is a legal presumption that if you have followed the guidance in the documents, this is evidence that your work has complied with the Building Regulations.