Building Regulations are statutory regulations made under Section 1 of the Building Act 1984. The Building Regulations 2010 contain the latest major issue of the Regulations, but further amendments and additions have been made since.
The Regulations cover the design and construction of buildings and the services, fittings and equipment provided in or in connection with buildings. These purposes include:
- securing the health, safety, welfare and convenience of persons in and about buildings
- furthering the conservation of fuel and power
- preventing waste, undue consumption, misuse or contamination of water
- furthering the protection or enhancement of the environment
- facilitating sustainable development.
Building works must generally comply with the Regulations, whether involving the construction of a new building or alterations or additions to an existing property. Building works include alterations or additions to gas, electricity, water and drainage services. Alteration of the material use of a property, or certain rooms within a property, may also have to comply with the Regulations.
With all building work, the owner of the property (or land) in question is ultimately responsible for complying with the relevant building regulations. Homeowners cannot rely on contractors or tradesmen to obtain any necessary approvals under the Regulations (but contractors may now be registered under one of several schemes. allowing them to self-certify works.)
Approval of works; completion certificates
For some works it is necessary to give notification directly to the local authority or to an approved inspector for approval of the plans before commencing work. However for many works it is only necessary to deposit plans, and contractors who are members of a recognised self-certification scheme can carry out appropriate works without needing any consent.
Inspection of works was formerly only carried out by local authorities, but independent approved inspectors can now also carry out inspections. In the case of new-build houses and property conversions inspections are often carried out by the NHBC.
When works have been completed and inspected, a completion certificate should be issued. If inspection was carried out by NHBC, this will be incorporated in their own certificate. Registered contractors can issue certificates for work done under the relevant self-certification scheme. It is important to retain any such certificate as if the property is sold the buyer’s Conveyancing Solicitor will require to see it as evidence that works complied with the Regulations.
Local councils have wide enforcement powers, and in extreme cases may require the removal of works. Because of the implications of this on purchasers, Conveyancing Solicitors are always concerned to obtain evidence that any building works carried out by a seller or other previous owners comply with Regulations.
In some cases this will entail the seller applying for retrospective approval – often a difficult process when works have been covered over. Also the inspector will apply the current Regulations, which may not have been applicable when the work was done.