for People with a Passion for Period Property

Should I, could I, would I? Part II

By Greg Pullen

The Jones's

Previously Greg Pullen advised homeowners to obtain the necessary permissions before undertaking work on their homes. In this follow-up feature, he focuses on some of the building issues involved.

This month we're looking at building regulation approval - which is something nearly all building work needs. Administered by the local authority, the point of building regulation approval is to make sure that your extension doesn't fall down and that it's as energy efficient as possible. Indeed, a Building Control Officer can also be a useful ally, helping you decide whether the builders are working to a reasonable standard.

For small jobs you can simply obtain notices to tell the building inspector when to come and look at the work - for example, when the foundations are laid, or when the work is all completed. For bigger jobs you're going to have to give more information as to how the builder is actually going to do the job, which frankly is as important to you as it is to anyone else.

Contrary to popular belief, conservatories do need building regulation approval and have quirky little rules - for example, the fact that radiators must have provision to be turned off independently from the main building's heating system. Within the house, jobs like knocking down walls or removing a chimney breast also need building regulation approval.

I've written about the Party Wall Act before. Suffice to say, you need to tell your neighbours about any building work you're about to do in plenty of time, and get their written permission before you start.

And so to more recent red tape. Part L certification refers to Part L of the Building Regulations. There's plenty of work you might not realise needs approval. For example, alterations or upgrading of heating installation must meet the Part L requirements. If the heating installation is being carried out by a competent, registered heating engineer, he will issue the certificate automatically, and advise in his original quote or estimate that this will be provided. If he doesn't, ask for written confirmation that the work will reach the required standard, and be certified as such, or you could have problems when you come to sell your house. Part L also applies to glazing, which nowadays needs to be double glazing. This can be via a FENSA registered window installer, generally meaning a purveyor of the dreaded uPVC. Even if you have bespoke windows made by a local joiner, he will probably still be able to issue the Part L certificate, but if not, again you need to trot down to the Building Control office and obtain one. These building rules also apply to all conservatories.

And just as night follows day, P follows L. Part P of the Building Regulations also applies to any new work or alterations to electrical installations - again, any competent electrical installer should understand what is required. In essence, any new electrical work needs a Part P certificate.

More surprisingly, any electrical work to kitchens to bathrooms, even if it's simple like-for-like replacement, needs a Part P certificate. Goodness only knows why all those kitchen lights are for sale in the DIY emporiums, when officially you can't install them yourself. In theory you could ask you local building control officer to approve your own works, as long as you pay him a fee, of course. There are numerous nooks and crannies of our labyrinthine administration. Owners of listed buildings will need consent for any work that affects the character of the buildings or its setting, regardless of the grade of the listing and whether the work is to the inside, outside or in the garden of the house. This means that even changing a fireplace, putting up a garden shed or lopping a tree down could need permission. Conservation Area Consent is broadly similar, and applies to all houses and gardens within a designated conservation area. Finally, if you live in a leasehold property, a private road or certain types of estate, the consent of some or all of the neighbours may be needed for any work you undertake. If you do need permission, this should have been advised by your solicitor when you moved in, although it might be buried deep within the Report on Title that was issued to you at the time of purchase.

And that should be it. Unless you get an enforcement notice telling you otherwise.

VAT and Extensions.

If you're moving into a brand new house, any building work - for example a conservatory - which starts before you move in should be zero rated for VAT. Similarly any improvement (not repairs) to a listed building for which consent has been granted should be zero rated. NB. Make sure all is agreed with the local Customs and Excise office before the work starts

Greg Pullen is a consultant to Strakers, Devizes. Tel. 01380 723451 or visit www.strakers.co.uk

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