21 Mar 2012

Building Rules and Regulations

Building Rules and Regulations

Gary Ross, Associate Partner, looks at structural alterations and the importance of complying with Building Regulations.

Gary Ross, Associate Partner, looks at structural alterations and the importance of complying with Building Regulations.

Building Standards in Scotland 

If you propose to erect a new building, demolish an old one or alter, extend or convert an existing building, the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 contains a requirement that a Building Warrant is granted prior to any building or demolition work being undertaken.  If you do not have authorisation to carry out the building works it can lead to difficulties selling your property at a later date. 

Building Works Completed Pre 2005 – “Letter of Comfort” Procedure

If building works have already been carried out, the Local Authority may be able to provide reassurance to a purchaser that they will not pursue the matter in certain circumstances. The Local Authority’s consideration of unauthorised works is categorised by date that the works were completed. If the works were completed prior to the 1 May 2005, then the Local Authority will consider whether or not the work is illegible for a “Letter of Comfort” to be issued. An application can be made by you or your Solicitor. However the Local Authority has complete discretion over whether or not to accept an application for a Letter of Comfort. In the event the Local Authority accepts this, a non-disruptive inspection of the work will be carried out with regards to the health and safety of the work carried out. If the Local Authority deems it appropriate, a letter will be issued stating that the Local Authority does not intend to take statutory action in respect of the unauthorised works, a Letter of Comfort. If the Local Authority decides it cannot provide a Letter of Comfort then it may ask that remedial works be undertaken. Failure to do so may result in statutory action being taken by the Local Authority. A Letter of Comfort will in the majority of cases satisfy all parties involved in the conveyancing or remortgaging of a property.

Building Works Completed After 1 May 2005

For works completed after 1 May 2005 an Application for a Completion Certificate where no Building Warrant Obtained should be submitted.  This does not remove the fact than an offence has been committed. The Application will only be accepted by the verifier the Local Authority Building Inspector and a Certificate issued if it can be shown that the work complies with building standards as at the time that the certificate was submitted. You may also be asked to provide plans so that verifier can assess your application. The verifier may need to see some of the works and a penalty may also be charged for the late application as well as the normal fee.

The Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004

The Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004 apply to the construction of new buildings, alterations, conversions and extensions of existing buildings.

The Regulations exempt certain types of building work from the requirement for building warrant approval. One main type of building work which does not require a building warrant is generally speaking non-structural internal works to a property no more than two storeys in height. For example, the alteration or re-fit of a kitchen would not require building warrant approval provided that the work in question meets a number of criteria, including, but not limited to the following: the work does not increase the floor area, it does not involve the demolition or alteration of a roof or external wall, the property in question is no more than 4.5 metres un height, the work does not adversely affect a separation wall. Other examples of construction work which are exempt from the requirement for a building warrant relate to small buildings associated with residential properties including single storey conservatories or porches, but again the work requires to comply with a number of strict criteria in order to be exempt under the Building Regulations. It is therefore advisable to seek professional advice before going ahead with any building work. Furthermore the Scottish Government provide extensive Technical Handbooks on how you can comply that are suitable for most projects. 

Gary Ross, Associate

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