Complying with building regulations

Complying with building regulations

Complying with the Building Regulations

It is very important that you understand how the building regulatory system and material applies to your situation, as you are responsible for making sure that the work complies with the Building Regulations (BR) if you are carrying out building work personally.

If you are employing a builder, the responsibility will usually be theirs - but you should confirm this at the very beginning. You should also bear in mind that if you are the owner of the building, it is ultimately you who may be served with an enforcement or contravention notice if the work does not comply with the BR.

To help you achieve compliance with the BR, you are required to use one of two types of Building Control service in England and Wales:

  • Your local authority Building Control service
  • An Approved Inspector's Building Control service

In Northern Ireland, you must you must use the Building Control department of your local authority.

In England and Wales, if your building work consists only of the installation of certain types of services or fittings (e.g. some types of drain, fuel burning appliances, replacement windows, WCs and showers) and you employ an installer registered with a relevant scheme designated in the BR (a competent person), that installer may be able to self-certify the work and you won't need to involve a Building Control service. However, this concession is strictly limited to the specific type of installation described and does not cover any other type of building work.

The works themselves must meet the requirements in the BR and they must not make any other aspects of the building dangerous or less compliant than they were before. For example, replacement double-glazing must not adversely affect means of escape, air supply for combustion appliances and their flues, or ventilation for health.

BR may also apply to certain changes of use of an existing building. This is because the change of use may result in the building no longer complying with the requirements for its new type of use. This may mean that the building must be upgraded to meet any additional requirements specified in the BR.

For more information, see our 'Changing use of buildings' section.

Why should I comply?

Enforcement notices & fines

The local authority has a general duty to enforce the BR in its area and will seek to do so by informal means wherever possible.

In England and Wales if an Approved Inspector is providing the Building Control service, they're responsible for checking that the BR are complied with during the course of your building work. However, Approved Inspectors do not have enforcement powers. Instead, the BR provide that in a situation where they consider your building work does not comply with the BR, they will not issue you with a final certificate and notify your local authority. If no other Approved Inspector takes on the work, the Building Control service will automatically be taken on by your local authority. From this point on, your local authority will also have enforcement powers to require you to alter your work if they consider this necessary.

The local authority or another person may decide to take them to the magistrates' court, where they could be fined up to £5,000 for the contravention, and no more than one tenth of £5,000 (i.e. no more than £500 per day) for each day the contravention continues after conviction. This action will usually be taken against the builder or main contractor, although proceedings must be taken within 6 months of the offence. The local authority can also serve an enforcement or contravention notice on the owner, requiring them to alter or remove work which contravenes the BR. If the owner does not comply with the notice, the local authority has the power to undertake the work itself and recover the costs of doing so from the owner.

An enforcement or contravention notice cannot be served on you 12 months (18 months in Northern Ireland) after the date of completion of the building work. However, the local authority (or any other person) can still apply to the courts for an injunction. If the local authority approved your plans or failed to object to them within five weeks (two months with your agreement), it cannot take any enforcement action in respect of work carried out in accordance with those plans.

Impact on selling the property

If the local authority considers that building work carried out does not comply with the BR and it is not rectified, the authority will not issue you with a completion certificate. This means that the contravention will be highlighted on any local land search enquiry or local council property certificate in Northern Ireland when you wish to sell your property. Very few people would be willing to buy a property that was in breach of the BR.

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