What are Building Works for the purposes of Building Regulations ?

Very often in the conveyancing process we are confronted with the scenario where work has been done to a property, which would have required Building Regulations Approval, and on raising enquiries / carrying out searches it becomes clear that no such approval has ever been obtained. So what building works require Building Regulation Approval ?

‘Building Work’ is defined in Regulation 3 of the Building Regulations. The definition means that the following types of project amount to ‘Building Work’:

  1. the erection or extension of a property;
  2. the installation or extension of a service or fitting which is controlled under the Building Regulations;
  3. an alteration project involving work which will temporarily or permanently affect the ongoing compliance of the property, service or fitting with the requirements relating to structure, fire, or access to and use of buildings;
  4. the insertion of insulation into a cavity wall; 
  5. Underpinning of the foundations of a property.

If whatever work your project involves amounts to ‘Building Work’ then it must comply with the Building Regulations. This means that if you intend  to put up a new building, or extend or alter an existing one ( e.g. by converting a loft space into living space) you will require Building Regulation Consent.

If you intend or provide services and/or fittings in a building then you are likely to require Building Regulation Consent for the following :

  1. washing and sanitary facilities ( e.g. WCs, showers, washbasins, kitchen sinks, etc. . ),
  2. hot water cylinders,
  3. foul water and rainwater drainage,
  4. replacement windows,
  5. fuel burning appliances of any type;

This means that the works themselves must meet the relevant technical requirements of Building Regulations they must not make other fabric, services and fittings less compliant than they previously were – or dangerous. E. G. the provision of replacement double-glazing must not worsen compliance in relation to: means of escape and supply of air for combustion appliances and their flues.

Building Regulations could  also apply to certain changes of use of an existing building even though you may think that the work involved in the project will not amount to ‘Building Work’. This may be due to the fact the change of use may result in the building as a whole no longer complying with the requirements which will apply to its new use, and so having to be up-graded to meet additional requirements specified in the regulations for which building work may also be required.

It is important that if you are aware of any changes having made to the property that you are buying that you notify your conveyancing solicitor. Remember that the in 99. 9% of conveyancing cases your conveyancing lawyer will not have visited the property. It is also important that if you have a survey carried out on the property that you send a copy to your conveyancing lawyer. It is only with your help that your conveyancing lawyer can check that any building works to the property comply with Building Regulations.