Checking for Building Regulations Approval
It is important to check whether you need approval ‘before’ starting construction or making certain changes to buildings.
But, using someone who is registered with one of the competent person schemes means you won’t need to get it yourself.
Building regs approval is not the same as getting planning permission in England and Wales – and you may need to have both.
Note: The rules for getting building regulations approval differ in Scotland (e.g. the Scottish Building Standards) along with those relating to the Northern Ireland Building Regulations.
What Do Building Regulations Cover?
The construction and extension of buildings and other structures in the United Kingdom falls under legislation as per the Building Regulations 2010.
Furthermore, you may also need to get consent from a ‘building control body’ (BCB) to carry out certain types of alteration projects.
Typical examples home improvements and common building work projects that may need approval include:
- Adding extra radiators to an existing heating system.
- Changing electrics near to a bathtub or an electric shower.
- Bathrooms (if it involves plumbing work).
- Fixed air-conditioning systems.
- Heating systems.
- Doors and windows.
- Electric fuse boxes and other types of electrical objects connected to them.
- Roof coverings on pitched and flat roofs.
Important: Getting advance approval is not required for emergency repairs to boilers and heating systems. But, you must follow boiler and heating building regulation regimes in England.
Penalties for Not Complying with Building Regs
Local planning authorities (LPA) can make offenders pay for fixing any faulty work if they do not follow the rules set out in building control procedures.
Furthermore, you may have difficulties selling your home if you do not have official approvals (e.g. certificates of compliance).
Note: Doing work on a property can result in a prosecution and a fine if it fails to comply with building regulations.
Building Work that Does Not Need Approval
As a rule of thumb, there will be no need to apply for building regulations approval from a ‘building control body’ if (either):
- Building regulations do not cover the type of work you are conducting.
- The person carrying out the work is already registered with one of the competent person schemes (see the section below).
Despite needing to follow procedural and technical provisions, some projects have full exemptions from building regulations – whereas others may only be exempt from certain aspects.
Common examples include:
- Carrying out ‘like-for-like’ replacements of baths, basins, sinks, and toilets.
- Installing new lighting and power points, or changing existing circuits (excluding those around baths and showers).
- Most kinds of replacements, repairs, and minor maintenance work (excluding fuse boxes, glazing units, heating systems, and oil tanks).
Note: All work needs to meet safety and energy efficiency standards even if it does not require formal approval.
Using Competent Person Schemes (CPS)
Tradespeople and installers (e.g. for boilers, windows) can join a competent person scheme to prove their ability to conduct certain work to the minimum required standards.
Benefits of Hiring Registered Tradespersons
Installers registered with a scheme are able to self-certify their work. In simple terms, it means the tradesperson will comply with buildings standards and will be able to handle any issues with building control (e.g. objections).
Another benefit is them being able to inform the local authority about the work they are doing for you. You would get a certificate within eight (8) weeks of the work being completed.
Moreover, the certificate will show up in any solicitor searches so you can use it as evidence of compliance, if you decide to sell the property.
You can also use the complaints procedures and the insurance-backed warranties provided by competent person schemes – if you have a problem with the workmanship. You can find a ‘competent person’ by searching:
- The Competent Persons Register (including being able to check they belong to a scheme).
- The Registered Competent Person Electrical (to find a competent and qualified electrician).
Joining Competent Person Schemes
Tradespersons who join a competent person scheme will be able to self-certify certain types of building work. Doing so means there would be no need to apply for building regulations approval from a private inspector or the local council.
Before approval, they assess your work to verify that it meets the required level of competence. Then, annual ongoing inspections (for the first 48 months) help to ensure the standard is maintained.
How to Apply for Building Approval
People living in England and Wales can check the building regulations, and then apply for approval, by contacting a ‘building control body’ (BCB). You can choose to use (either):
- Local authority BCBs through the Building Control application service (e.g. your local council).
- Private BCBs to give an ‘initial notice’ through the Construction Industry Council Approved Inspectors Register (CICAIR).
Choosing the Right Type of Application
You will need to decide which type of application to use before you start working on an alteration, extension, or a planned building project.
Building Notices (for small projects)
After submitting a building notice application to the local BCB, you would be able to start the work two (2) days afterward. The reason for this is because you would not receive ‘formal approval’ (e.g. for a full plan).
Applying for Regularisation
In simple terms, ‘regularisation’ is the same as getting retrospective approval for work that took place after the 11th of November 1985 without consent. You must use a local authority BCB for regularisation applications.
Even so, the building control body may ask you to make certain alterations before agreeing the work – and then supplying the regularisation certificate.
Because full plan applications are the most thorough option, it may take at least five (5) weeks to get a decision and up to eight (8) weeks to get a completion certificate (providing the finished work complies).
Note: Failing to follow minimum building regulations can result in you having to correct the work (or pay a fine).
BCB Fees and Costs for Work
The price for using a private BCB varies. But, local authority BCBs calculate their fees on costings (including site inspections), the type of work involved, and:
- How many dwellings the building contains.
- The total floor area (e.g. for an extension).
Important: Another section explains how the Disabled Facilities Grants works for people with disabilities. Hence, if the project is solely for a person with a disability you may not need to pay a fee.
How to Make an Appeal
As a rule, you will be able to lodge an appeal if you think the project you are working on does not need to comply with building regulations. As a result, the local authority may ignore or relax the building regulations.
If they refuse to grant building regulations approval you should be able to ask for a ‘determination’ (e.g. the BCB decision is unfair).
Private BCBs cannot ignore or relax building regulations. You would need to ask a local authority building control body instead.
Asking for a Determination
You can dispute or disagree with the building control body if they say your plans do not comply, by asking for a determination (e.g. get a decision from the government).
Note: The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government produces updated guidance on the procedures contained in the Building Act 1984.
Related Help Guides
- Building safety rules for homeowners (H&S file).
- How to appeal a householder planning decision made by LPA?
- Search the register of planning decisions.
Note: The main section contains more information about planning permissions and how to make appeals if you get a refusal.