Building Regulations and Domestic Properties
by Martin Burgess – Access & Building Consultancy.
Just to add to all the other responsibilities that a landlord has to deal with, the Building Regulations are further legislation that need to be taken into account, especially when considering extension, alteration or refurbishment work to a property.
Historically the Regulations tended to focus on key aspects of health and safety, such as structural stability, fire safety, drainage and damp proofing. These still remain relevant, but additional provisions have been added over a number of years including energy efficiency, accessibility and also soon to be included, security.
This short article cannot go into the intricacies of what does or does not require Building Regulations consent, but below are a few of the key areas that landlords should review when considering work to a property (unfortunately the list is not exhaustive):
- New building work such as extensions (although some exemptions do apply for simple small extensions such as porches and small detached outbuildings)
- Any structural work or work that affects fire safety precautions; this would include any loft conversions or opening up a property so that the stairs were open to lower floor accommodation. It would also include re-tiling or re-slating works to roofs, where loadings are changing
- Underpinning or basement works
- New drainage works, either internally (e.g. a new bathroom) or externally with new underground drainage
- New or altered electrical wiring*
- New or altered boiler installations or alterations to other fixed heating appliances*
- Window replacement work*
- Any renovation work to an enclosing thermal element (i.e. lowest floor, external walls or roof), which may in turn require enhanced thermal insulation
*These works can be carried out by a specialist contractor who is registered under a “Competent Persons” Scheme, without the need to apply for Building Regulations consent. For further information about this Government scheme as well as exemptions see: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/buildingregulations.
If you have any work you are considering that may be covered by the above list, always seek professional guidance before embarking on any work.
One common feature we frequently see which is noted above, is the desire to open up accommodation such as a ground floor. This can include a large through lounge into a dining and kitchen area, which then often runs through to the garden with large full width bi-folding doors (the concept of bringing the garden into the house). This is perfectly feasible but can present some challenges and has the potential to introduce some key non-compliances against the Regulations.
The three main issues generally are:
- Fire safety: If you open up a whole floor level to the main stair serving a dwelling, you immediately put the upper floor occupants at risk, should there be a fire at ground floor level. Kitchens and living rooms are generally the highest risk rooms and are often the very rooms that are opened up. This needs very careful consideration, particularly if the property has more than one storey above ground level.
- Structure: A large open aspect / window opening into a rear garden will need suitable structural support, as will the enclosing structure. Building Control will often seek structural calculations from a competent Structural Engineer to ensure that the proposed works has adequate strength for the increased loadings.
- Thermal insulation: When window sizes are enlarged, there needs to an enhancement of the thermal performance of other elements, such as walls and roof. This may be necessary to compensate for extensive areas of glazing, which will not be as efficient at keeping heat in as good wall or roof insulation.
However many such arrangements can be achieved successfully and in so doing, can significantly enhance the living space for all occupants and can be a good investment in the longer term.
As suggested, any relevant work to your property will need to be assessed for compliance with the Building Regulations. Without suitable Certification, the alterations may jeopardise your insurance should something go wrong. Worst still it can place the tenants at risk of harm through poor health and safety. Also undertaking building work without the necessary approvals could make you liable to prosecution under the Building Act.
If you need any advice you can consult with your local Building Control Department at the District Council Offices. Alternatively you can consult and engage a private Building Control Surveyor.
For more information and help relating to this article, please contact Martin Burgess, MRICS, Access and Building Consultancy: firstname.lastname@example.org / 07943 787779 / 01869 350898. Martin is a Chartered Building Surveyor and Building Control Surveyor and has extensive experience with domestic properties, including flats and mixed used premises.