Self Build Building Regulations
UK Building regulations for self builders
The Building Regulations have been in place in some form or another since the Great Fire of London in 1666. Initially introduced after the famous disaster to improve fire safety in the capital, regulations have evolved and expanded to the level they’re at today.
Following the Building Act 1984’s introduction of Approved Documents - a guide to the various routes to achieving regulatory compliance - the modern version of the Building Regulations was brought in in 2010. Setting out the minimum requirements of the design, construction and alteration of a structure, the Building Regulations include the following:
● What buildings and work are covered
● The standards that these buildings and this work must meet
● The role of local authorities and approved inspectors
● How the regulations are enforced
As the regulations include self build projects, too, it’s important to know when and how you need to comply with them. Before starting work, you’ll need to check with Building Control to make sure your project meets the required standards. But what are Building Regulations and how do you know if you need them? Read this article to find out.
Who is responsible for building regulations?
Each part of the UK has its own variation of the Building Regulations. Visit the appropriate government website to find out how they work for your region.
When do you need Building Regulations approval?
It’s best to get Building Regulations approval before you start work; getting halfway through the build before finding out that approval has been denied would be incredibly costly.
If you’re using a building company for your self build, it is usually their responsibility to gain Building Regulations approval - make sure to find out whose responsibility it is as a matter of priority, so you can take the required steps if necessary.
The Building Regulations requirements vary depending on the type of work that is being carried out. Before you start any work, make sure you fully understand your regulatory obligations to avoid missing any important steps or doing unnecessary work. You can find the full details here.
Who can grant approval?
There are two types of ‘building control body’ (BCB) to check the building regulations or apply for approval; local authority building control and private building control (also referred to as ‘approved inspectors’). Both will be appropriately qualified to undertake the role and will consider the same types of building control application (full application, building notice.) Only the Local Authority can accept applications for a Regularisation Certificate.
The may be a difference in charges. Local authority building control are not-for-profit, whereas as approved inspectors are privately-owned businesses, which usually (but not always) means that private inspectors are a little more expensive than a local authority.
Private inspectors are generally regarded as being more responsive than the local authority. However, once an ‘Initial Notice’ is sent to a Local Authority by an AI, they have to wait at least five days, whereas, an application lodged and registered with a LA may proceed after giving 48 hours notice. In both cases work proceeds at the applicant’s risk until such time that the plans are approved. The AI’s geographic area of coverage can be wider than that of a local authority inspector, who are tied to administering their local area.
When the local authority is appointed, your job is assigned to the department rather than to an individual. While local authority inspectors tend to supervise a set area. You may not have the same inspector attend every visit and instead the inspector who is available at that particular time will attend. In contrast privately, you will have a named individual attending your job from start to finish, but what if they are ill or on holiday at a key moment in your project?
What’s more important is to keep in mind the fact that the inspector is there to serve your interests by ensuring that works are completed as they need to be. So be sure to appoint building control yourself rather than via your Architect or Builder, as a means of connecting their inspections with your best interest.
Building Regulations application
There are two ways to apply for Building Regulations approval; you can either do it yourself via the local authority’s building control services, or you can enlist the services of an approved inspector.
There are also two types of application; Full Plans Application and Building Notice. There are benefits to both, but it’s important to know which one is better suited to your plans before settling on one.
Full Plans Application
A full plans application is extremely detailed - this type of application includes specialist drawings and the full construction details of your proposed build. While it can be time-consuming to prepare the required level of detail, the main benefit is that you can describe the exact house you want to build.
This way, when your application is approved, you’ll know every aspect of your home is accounted for, as long as you’re building the same home you proposed in the application.
If you’re applying for a self-build mortgage or structural warranty, the lender will almost certainly want to see a full plans application before loaning you the money.
A Building Notice application is essentially just informing the local authority that you plan to carry out building work - often on an existing property. It’s considerably less detailed than a full plans application, but it also offers less protection as there’s no guarantee that the building will comply with regulations.
If an inspector discovers a problem down the line, you may be faced with costly adjustments. It should ideally be restricted to minor works, for example, installing a window. If deemed necessary, the Local Authority can ask for additional information.
Contact your local authority to find out more about which type of application is better suited to your requirements.
A third type of application is known as ‘regularisation’. This is for retrospective approval for work already carried out without consent, and can only be provided from a local authority BCB.
How much does a Building Regulations application cost?
The cost of a Building Regulations application can vary between local authorities. It can also vary depending on the type of work that you’re carrying out, the size of the area and the number of dwellings in the proposed build. Contact your local authority for more information on the cost of a Building Regulation application.
How long do Building Regulations take?
Building notice - within two days of acceptance of the notice. Approval time varies depending on the type of application.
Full plans applications are usually approved between five weeks or two months after submission, but the less detailed building notice applications are usually approved within 48 hours. You may legally commence work as soon as your application is officially registered and fee paid, but you do so at your own risk until the plans are approved.
Who is responsible for ensuring all work meets Building Regulations?
It is the responsibility of the person carrying out the work to ensure compliance.
As we mentioned above, it is usually the builder’s responsibility to obtain Building Regulations approval and to ensure what they build is in line with the approved plans. However, it will ultimately fall to the property owner if the building does not meet the required regulations. Moreover, the law is changing to make it easier for the Local Authority to take action against the builder.
Note that it is only the Local Authority that can take enforcement action to ensure compliance. Therefore, if using an Approved Inspector and a builder does not resolve a non-compliance, the application would need to revert to the Local Authority Building Control, at additional expense.
When will the work be inspected?
The old system of a series of statutory notices has now been changed to a risk-assessed system, where the number and type of inspections will be provided in a list appropriate for the complexity of your project. Therefore, the times and regularity of inspections can vary depending on who is overseeing your application and the type of project you’re undertaking. Generally, an inspection can occur in one of two ways:
There may be inspections at different points of the project, depending on the work. For example, your flooring may need an inspection, or the foundations, or the drainage of the build. The inspectors will inform you if any of the aspects don’t adhere to the Building Regulations
After work has finished, an inspection will be carried out to make sure it complies with the Building Regulations and it’s fit for inhabitation. This inspection should be carried out before anybody moves in, in case extra work is needed to make it safe and regulations-compliant. Ensure that, before this inspection occurs, all the required paperwork is available covering the installation, testing and commissioning of systems and appliances and, most importantly for new dwellings, the as-built SAP statement.
When the build is complete, you need to inform Building Control. Once they’re satisfied, they’ll provide you with a certificate of completion which solicitors, lenders and insurance companies will use when you look to sell your property. It’s important to get this certificate - it can be difficult to sell your property without it.
If you have any further questions about the Building Regulations, Building Control, or the inspection processes around self build projects, the best way to seek advice is by contacting your Local Authority. You can also browse our website, where you’ll find more helpful guides like this about all things self build.