No building regulations approval? What's the solution?

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No building regulations approval - picture of dog

When a property is up for sale and building work has been carried out on it, the seller will need a form of certification to say that the works have been inspected and that they comply with the building regulations.

At least, that seems to be the current view of many engaged in the conveyancing of properties.

Is building regulations approval really needed?

There are a number of snags with this:

  • Some works don’t need building regulations approval
  • Some could have been done before the regulations changed to include them
  • Others may have been carried out prior to the early 90s, before Certificates of Completion were introduced

Therefore, some works might not have needed approval, some did need approval but have no certificate and, in the worst case, they did need approval but no-one has applied for it!

In all these cases, there will be no documentation to show that the project is compliant with the building regulations.

Routes to building regulations approval

From the 11th November 1985 onwards, there have been two routes to gaining building regulations approval for building work. 

1. Through the local authority.

2. Through a private company, approved by the Secretary of State to carry out such work and issue approvals. Such companies are known as “Approved Inspectors”.

There are differences in the documentation issued, dependent on which route you take.

The key documents are those that are issued to state that the building works have been approved, inspected and passed. Where the work has been undertaken with the council's approval, the document is a “Building Regulations Certificate of Completion” and if an Approved Inspector is used, the document is a “Building Regulations Final Certificate”.

What happens if there is no approval, when there should be?

If building regulations approval and certification should have been obtained for building works and no such approval exists, there are potential consequences. Under the provisions of Section 36(6), Building Act 1984, the council can seek a High Court injunction to require the alteration or removal of work that doesn't comply.

Such an action can be expensive for a buyer. To add to the expense, the costs of either remedying the building or removing the offending work can be high.

Therefore, some have considered it wise to purchase indemnity insurance to cover such costs, should they arise.

The purchase of an insurance indemnity policy may cover the issue for one sale, but it doesn't remove the problem with the property.

What about the next time the property is sold?

The same situation exists, the same delays may occur, the same threat of action by the local authority remains, no progress has been made, the vicious circle continues.

Is this in the best interests of the home owner?

The way forward? Regularisation.

The clear way to break the vicious circle is to obtain regularisation certificate - this is the process by which a retrospective building regulations application can be made.

There are, however, some drawbacks with this:

1. The regularisation process cannot be used for work that was carried out prior to the 11th November 1985.

2. The process is a double-edged sword as what might have been thought to have been a simple lack of paperwork may turn out to be much more complex and expensive to rectify. When the remedial work is not undertaken, a Certificate of Regularisation will not be issued.

Some other issues to take into consideration are that building regulations regularisation can only be obtained from the relevant local authority as private sector Approved Inspectors aren't authorised to undertake this work. Further, the council will charge for the service they provide, and the charge will be higher than the one they would have raised at the time the application should have been made. (This is done deliberately as an incentive to applicants to make submissions in a timely manner.)

Nevertheless, only by making a regularisation application can the applicant find out definitively what is non-compliant with their building works.

How does this affect the sale of your property?

Knowing that approval can be given retrospectively might be enough for a buyer to take on the property. Then again it might not.

Whichever, it will be the owner’s responsibility to undertake the works to achieve building regulations compliance and it's important to know that this can be made a requirement before your sale can go through.

Completion certificates for work done before 2013

Update 20 November 2020. We've had many queries on work done years previously as you can see from the comments below. Here's some further information for those in that position:

Prior to 2013 there was no requirement for local authorities to issue completion certificates in all cases. Some authorities adopted a procedure to issue completions before this date, but not all, and the earlier the date the less likely it is that completion certificates would be available.  Consequently it may not be possible to provide a completion certificate for work carried out  before 2013.  Although there are provisions within the regulations for a local authority to accept applications to regularise work carried out without approval, there is no obligation on a local authority to accept such application. Also  the greater the length of time since work was completed, the less likely this would provide a satisfactory solution.

Conveyancing solicitors have increasingly demanded completion certificates, which was part of the reason for their introduction into regulation in 2013, unfortunately their demands do not take account when building work was completed. Provision of some form of indemnity policy is often promoted as an alternative, however this is usually only to cover legal action by the local authority for contravention of building regulations. A surveyors report indicating the current status of the property in relation to building regulations applicable at the time the work was carried out may be more beneficial to future occupiers.


Read more on Front Door


More on this topic

Further information on home improvements can be found on LABC's Front Door website.

Every care was taken to ensure the information was correct at the time of publication. Any written guidance provided does not replace the user’s professional judgement. It is the responsibility of the dutyholder or person carrying out the work to ensure compliance with relevant building regulations or applicable technical standards.

This article was updated on 21 March 2022


Not enforceable

Submitted 5 years 10 months ago

Building regulations is NOT enforceable after two years. Indemnity is the simple solution

Not enforceable

Submitted 5 years 4 months ago

Yes, It IS enforceable after 12mths and at any time by way of an injection by the court

Building Act

Submitted 5 years 10 months ago

A Local Authority can still apply for an injunction to have the offending work removed at any time. The Indemnity insurance protects a client from the costs incurred of any potential injunction. It does not protect them from action.

See Building Act 1984 Section 36(6)

Loft conversion

Submitted 5 years 10 months ago

We were interested in buying a house which we found had a non-compliant loft conversion. The works did not comply with current or original regulations relating to structure, fire escape, thermal or stair access. The owners were not prepared to acknowledge this. We withdrew and the house went back on the market described as having a compliant loft conversion with the owners, estate agents and solicitors fully aware that this was not the case, hoping to find a buyer less knowledgeable than us. No amount of indemnity insurance will make this conversion safe. I believe the building insurance might also be invalid. Something needs to change.

non-compliant loft conversion

Submitted 5 years ago

We had an identical experience. I requested that the vendor/estate agent relist the property as 4BR not 5 but they refused. I told them that I was an experienced built environment professional and spoke with some authority about building design and regulation. They adopted a position of radio silence at that point. The property remained on sale with bedroom five in the loft lacking structural and fire integrity and a headroom of 5ft 6ins. I threatened to report them for fraudulent mis-selling of an asset. They weren't a bit bothered. Yes, something has to change to prevent these scoundrels peddling dangerous third-world construction for profit.


Submitted 5 years 10 months ago

Insurance Indemnity, as far as I am aware, only covers the insured against costs associated with Council bringing legal action against the owner of the building to force them to upgrade non compliant elements. Normally after 12 months Councils will not take action anyway. Insurance useless - waste of money


Submitted 5 years 10 months ago

Absolutely correct. If the work is structural and has been carried out in accordance with structural engineer's details but without building regs, much better for the seller to get a structural report done to satisfy the buyer that what they are buying is safe. An indemnity policy will not give that assurance

Regularisation process

Submitted 5 years 10 months ago

The regularisation process is fraught as the inspectors will have to deal with buildings and the interpretation of regulations that can be up to 35 years old (older than some inspectors) and those experienced with them may have retired!
Buildings are are constantly being changed, adapted and modified all often without the need for regulatory control and those amendments may have compromised the original regulated work.
The important elements i.e. structure, damp proofing, drainage, insulation etc cannot be inspected without extensive excavation and thus outside of the capabilities of any building control inspector.
Contravention of the regulations is widespread since only occasional inspections are made so the likelihood is that most building have faults and possibly also a completion certificate. Therefore, a statement as to the condition of the building i.e. a structural survey is far more reliable.
Obtaining building regs completion certificates even where one was probably issued is becoming more problematic since the LAs have often lost, archived or simply can't be bothered to access the records.

Building Notice

Submitted 5 years 10 months ago

We have always been led to believe that if the work was done under a Building Notice that no Completion Certificate will be issued but a LA. So even though the LA know about the work the owners still won't have anything to prove the work is / was acceptable to the LA - back to square one!

Building Notice and Certification

Submitted 3 years 10 months ago

I believe your understanding on Building Notice and the ability to obtain a Completion Certificate is not correct.

On satisfactory completion of works a local authority will automatically issue a completion certificate under either the full plans or building notice procedure. Please refer to

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