The lofty heights of Buidling Regulations

May 9, 2013

Whilst most people understand Building Control approval is required for the construction or structural alteration of an existing property, itis also necessary for home improvements like cavity wall insulation, loft insulation or central heating alterations such as a change from oil to natural gas.

We are all being encouraged to become more energy efficient and reduce our carbon footprint. The Energy Savings Trust has been running schemes to help implement energysavings measures in the home, providing grants for energy-efficient boilers, heating, loft insulation and cavity wall insulation. Currently, the Utility Regulator’s Northern Ireland Sustainable Energy Performance Programme provides £7million funding for energy efficiency work in Northern Ireland each year. Bidders to this scheme havedesigned a range of offers and incentives for applicants who fall outside the criteria set for Government-sponsored schemes. While these schemes encourage us to make energy-efficient changes, a Building Controlapplication is often not made for these types of works, resulting in the Building Control
Department not seeing ‘illegal’ works as they are carried out. This may lead to alterationswhich do not comply with current Building Regulations.On November 30, 2006 the Building (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 came into force, expanding the type of works covered by the Building Regulations which require any person undertaking thermal element works (eg loft insulation), to make an  application for approval.
If an application is made prior to the commencement of the works, and the completed works comply with the relevant Building Regulations, a Completion Certificate will be issued by the Building Control department. This certificate will indicate that the work has been subjected to professional inspection and complies with the Building Regulations requirements. The Completion Certificate relates only to matters of safety and health; the Building Regulationsdo not cover workmanship, quality of materials, decoration or landscaping. When homes are being bought or sold, solicitors require production of a Completion Certificate. This should be retained safely (ideally with a copy being placed with the titledeeds) to provide evidence of satisfactoryconstruction and alterations.

When selling a house, a survey will usually identify work which has been carried out. If this has been done without Building Controlhaving been informed, this may delay the sale, as Building Control need to inspect the property. If the unauthorised works have beencompleted more than 18 months before such inspection, a retrospective approval can besought. Before a ‘Regularisation Certificate’ or retrospective approval can be issued, thehome-owner may be asked to rectify any problems. A Regularisation application canonly be made for works commenced on or after October 1, 1973. Work completed prior to this date is not covered. Building works less than 18 months oldwithout the necessary approval will result in legal proceedings being taken. This may include:

• Notice to open up works – when workcannot be easily seen.
• Contravention Notice – when work isunsatisfactory and needs to be put right.
• Summons – when plans were required but not given or when contraventions have not been corrected.

Failure to comply with the Building Regulations can have serious consequences for home-owners. If in doubt regardingany works being undertaken at a property,no matter how big or small, the onus is on the home-owner to check with the Building Control Department to avoid costlyregularisation applications in the future.

For further information, telephone 028 9024 3141, e-mail info@cfrlaw.co.uk o