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Planning Permission Tips UK - Illegal Building Works - Is there an Upside?
By Martin Meaks
Many times throughout the year we are called in to assist people who have
got into trouble by completing building works without Council permission.
This can be either Planning or Building Regulations - often both. Guess when
this 'illegal' building works is usually exposed - Right at the time when
the home owner is under the most pressure and exposure to other abortive
fees - you guessed it - WHEN THEY ARE ABOUT TO MOVE HOME!
I am amazed at the blinkered approach most homeowners have to completing
building works without the required council consent. They just bury their
heads in the sand and think that it will not be exposed - HOW WRONG MOST
They seem to forget that most purchasers surveyors just love it when they
are able to expose any illegal building works that may assist the purchaser
in pulling out of the sale (strange I here you say) - you see they get paid
for their survey report irrespective of the homes condition and by exposing
illegal building works they obtain a 'get out of jail free card' - in other
words, the purchaser is likely to pull out of the sale and not rely on the
contents of the survey and thereby the surveyor reduces their exposure to
negligent claims from the purchaser when some other form of defect may be
discovered later on.
Not only this, but illegal building works also exposes the homeowner to clever
purchasers who then use this aspect to literally blackmail the homeowner
into accepting a vastly reduced offer price. If you have already invested
in reciprocal professional fees, moving costs and other commitments you suddenly
become what the trade calls a 'motivated purchaser' and likely to accept
a far lower offer due to your personal commitments and desires.
You are then faced with a panic - to resolve the situation by applying for
retrospective consents which will have a financial cost and loss of time
implication thereby at high risk of losing your current purchaser.
HOWEVER, all that said - we do need to place a little perspective on the
situation for some balance. Firstly it is perhaps a bit unfair to call the
works 'illegal'. A better term would be 'un-approved' - remember this is
not criminal legislation we are dealing with.
Also, there is a time element that affects the seriousness of the breach
of control. Generally speaking, if the works have been completed for 4 years
or longer then the Planning Department cannot normally insist on a retrospective
permission or require the works to be removed. Building Control on the other
hand have a shorter period for compliance which is normally two years. After
this time (and provided the works are not an obvious risk to health and safety)
they can only normally make a note within your property file. They are normally
unable to insist that the works are retrospectively approved after this time.
As a guide, if you fall into this category, the longer the un-approved works
have been in place, the easier it is for surveyors and purchasers to accept
the works 'as is' without too much detriment to the properties value. The
reason for this is clear - someone has to take a view that the works are
not going to be removed or fall apart after a period of time.
Most people are surprised to find that both the Planning Department and the
Building Control Department have formal applications to regularise the
un-approved building works. The risk for the homeowner is how much more works
are required to the property to make it comply. Often building works have
to be demolished and reinstalled to the approved standard.
Therefore, any homeowner fully aware that they have completed un-approved
building works and soon to move home should now put into action a 'regularisation
plan' to avoid the 'eleventh hour' panic described above. Seeking early
professional advice and guidance from a professional Building Designer or
surveyor should be your first port of call rather than approaching the council
Our 'Maximum Build Planning Guide' explains further the issues involved when
installing un-approved building works.
Our 'Maximum Build Planning Guide' explains further the issues involved
when extending or developing a property for planning permission.
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