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Building regulations promote:
standards for most aspects of a building's construction, including its structure, fire safety, sound insulation, drainage, ventilation and electrical safety
energy efficiency in buildings
the needs of all people, including those with disabilities, in accessing and moving around buildings. They set standards for buildings to be accessible and hazard-free wherever possible
Building regulations are made under powers provided in Building Act 1984, and apply in England and Wales. The current edition is the Building Regulations 2010, SI 2010/2214 and the majority of building projects are required to comply with them. The building regulations:
define what types of building, plumbing, and heating projects are subject to control
specify what types of buildings are exempt from control under the building regulations
set out the notification procedures to follow when starting, carrying out, and completing building work
set out the 'requirements' with which the individual aspects of building design and construction must comply in the interests of the health and safety of building users, of energy conservation, and of access to and use of buildings
For many types of building work, both planning permission and building regulations approval is required. For other building work, such as internal alterations, building regulations approval will probably be needed, but planning permission may not. Building work close to or directly affecting the boundary or party wall of premises may also be covered by Party Wall etc Act 1996. Determining which consents should be in place can be a significant issue when acquiring property (commercial or residential) that has been altered since its initial construction. If the local authority (LA) considers that building work carried out does not comply with the building regulations and it is not rectified, the authority will not issue a completion certificate and the contravention may come to light through a local land search enquiry when the property is being sold. If no building regulations approval can be shown (eg where a loft or garage conversion has taken place) then it is necessary to decide whether there is a practical problem, or merely a technical breach that cannot be enforced.
Contravention of building regulations is a criminal offence. The sanction is fine of up to £5,000, with the possibility of a fine of up to £50 for each day that passes following conviction until the work is put right. This action would usually be taken against the builder or main contractor and must be taken:
within the period of two years beginning with the day on which the offence was committed, and
within the period of six months beginning with the 'relevant date'
The 'relevant date' means the date on which evidence sufficient to justify the proceedings comes to the knowledge of the person commencing the proceedings. In the case of proceedings commenced by a LA:
evidence is to be regarded as sufficient to justify the proceedings if in the opinion of the proper officer or an authorised officer it is sufficient to justify the proceedings, and
a certificate of the proper officer or, as the case may be, that authorised officer as to the date on which evidence which, in his opinion, was sufficient to justify the proceedings came to the knowledge of the person commencing the proceedings is to be conclusive evidence of that fact
Alternatively (or in addition) the LA can serve an enforcement notice on the building owner specifying the extent of the offending work and the timescale within which it must be put right. If the owner does not comply with the notice the LA may carry out the work and recover its costs from the building owner. An enforcement notice must be served within 12 months from the date of completion of the building work. Enforcement is not allowed if the plans were approved by the authority or if they failed to reject them within five weeks from deposit of the plans, or two months if mutually agreed.
The 12 month deadline does not apply to the right of a LA (or any other person) to apply to the court for an injunction. An injunction is likely to be ordered if the works are dangerous and create a risk to health and safety.
The building regulations allow a property owner to apply to the LA for a regularisation certificate in respect of ‘unauthorised’ building work carried out on or after 11 November 1985. In assessing compliance, the LA may request the ‘opening up’ of unauthorised work. The authority will then decide if remedial work needs to be carried out, in accordance with the building regulations which were applicable to that work when it was originally carried out, before they can issue a regularisation certificate. A regularisation certificate is evidence (but not conclusive evidence) that the requirements of the building regulations specified in the certificate have been complied with. Buyers (and their lenders) may well insist on a regularisation certificate being obtained, and completion of a contract might be made conditional on provision of that certificate.
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