Are you thinking of renovating your home or making improvements to your property? Whether you are planning to convert your loft, create an open plan layout or extend your home, every building project starts with design and planning, a necessary preparatory phase that ensures your proposed build will be carried out within the budget and timescale allocated.
But in addition to getting your construction paperwork in order, there may also be important surveys and permissions you need to obtain to ensure that the works are safe and legal and don’t cause any issues with your local council or your neighbours. It’s not as daunting as it may appear as long as you know which documents you need to obtain. Let’s take a look at what you may need.
If you plan to carry out any major work like a building extension or home remodel, a structural survey is a must. An experienced surveyor or structural engineer will assess the structural condition of the building including the foundations, walls, and roof to make sure there aren’t any hidden issues and that the building can handle the new work. Look for a RICS-accredited chartered surveyor who specialises in the kind of property you have and the project you want to carry out. It’s wiser to be cautious – you don’t want to spend thousands on a renovation only to discover structural problems down the line.
Asbestos was commonly used in building materials until 1999 when it was banned, and the fibres can be dangerous if disturbed and breathed in. Asbestos is commonly found in flooring, roofing and pipes including artex wall and ceiling coverings and home insulation. Before any demolition and building work can begin and you suspect asbestos-containing materials may be found, you’ll need an asbestos survey to check and, if asbestos is discovered, it will need to be removed by a licenced contractor before any work can start.
Most major structural renovation work requires planning permission from your local council before it can proceed. This assesses the design and size of your project and the impact on your neighbours. The application process can take up to eight weeks or more, so factor that into your renovation timeline. That said, if yours is a freehold property, you will benefit from Permitted Development Rights, meaning that planning consent is not needed for a whole raft of common home improvements. There are parameters and limitations to this, so do double-check with your local council to see whether your proposed works qualify.
Listed building consent
If your home is a designated listed building – Grade I, Grade II* or Grade II – you will need to obtain listed building consent for most home improvements, in addition to planning permission. Please note that permitted development rights do not apply to listed buildings. You should also be aware that it is a criminal offence to make alterations to a listed building without prior authority. The listing protects the property’s characteristics that are deemed to be of special historical or architectural significance and ensures that your building works don’t do any damage. You will have to submit detailed plans which can take two to three months to be approved.
Party wall award
Do you share a wall or other structure with a neighbouring property, such as in a semi-detached or terraced house, or block of flats? If you are planning to carry out renovations or improvements that affect a party wall or structure, The Party Wall Act 1996 sets out a statutory process that must be followed so that the property interests of all affected building owners can be safeguarded. This is typically the case for chimney breast removals, loft conversions, basement excavations or building extensions. A party wall award is a formal agreement between property owners to allow for the work to proceed, provided the correct legal process has been followed.
While planning permission is designed to control the way areas are developed, building regulations are there to make sure building standards are met and that construction is carried out correctly and safely. This includes structural building work, plumbing, electrics and heating, fire safety and more. Unless you use a contractor who is on the Competent Persons Register – a government-approved scheme that allows individuals and enterprises to self-certify that their work complies with building regulations – then you will need to have building regulations approval from your council’s building control department. They may inspect the work at various stages to make sure it’s compliant.
Do you live in a leasehold flat or maisonette? Check your lease for any restrictions to the kinds of improvements you are allowed to make to your property. Typically, any structural building works need written approval from the freeholder or their management company in the form of a Licence To Alter, and some works may be prohibited altogether. Bear in mind that leasehold ownership doesn’t include ownership of the actual building, which belongs to the freeholder. What’s more, permitted development rights don’t apply to leasehold properties either.
Every homeowner is going to want to make improvements to their property at some point, and it’s important to know how to go about obtaining the right surveys and permissions. While the ‘red tape’ might be tedious to some, it is of course vital to ensure that your renovation is safe, proper and considerate to others. No one wants to end up with structural issues, asbestos exposure, legal troubles or annoyed neighbours.
And on that final point, don’t underestimate the importance of good neighbourly relations. While not an official legal requirement, it’s good practice to write to your adjacent residents advising them of your intended renovation work. Let them know the scope, approximate timescales, and any impacts they can expect like noise, access restrictions or parking changes. Your neighbours will appreciate the notice, and it can avoid complaints or objections down the road.
So, do your homework upfront, and you’ll be able to take on your renovation with confidence and peace of mind.