Planning Permissions and Building Regulations

Important Disclaimer: These notes are a general statement of the law – there may be errors or omissions. I do not accept responsibility for any loss resulting from reliance on them – please see my full disclaimer

One of the problems likely to arise in a house sale or purchase is whether appropriate planning permissions or Building Regulations consents were needed and, if so, whether they were obtained and complied with


A lot of relatively minor work will not need planning permission (as it will be treated as “permitted development” and various types of work will not come under the Building Regulations – see [Link to PDF: Planning permission and Building Regulations]

Where planning permission is needed, it is likely to have been granted subject to conditions, and a buyer will want to be confident that all conditions have been complied with – but see below regarding Enforcement

Building Regulations

Even where the Building Regulations apply, much work is self-certified by the contractor, if they are qualified under the “Competent Persons Scheme” – this often applies, for instance, to electrical work and cavity wall insulation – or under the FENSA scheme – for replacement windows.

If these schemes do not apply, there are two methods by which Building Regulations can be complied with –

  • Normally, an application for consent under the Building Regulations will be applied for. If consent is granted, the contractor must arrange stage inspections by the council (or an Approved Inspector), including in particular the final inspection, when the work is finally signed off
  • An alternative, now superseded by the Competent Persons Scheme, is for the contractor to serve a Building Notice on the council, specifying the work proposed; it is then for the council to notify the contractor if they want to make inspections. Crucially, there is often no final inspection, but few conveyancers seem to realise this.

Indemnity insurance

Even if planning permission or Building Regulations consent (or both) was required but not obtained, all is not lost: indemnity insurance cover is usually available to covered against the risk of the council taking enforcement action.


Further, for most breaches of planning control, the council cannot take enforcement action after 10 years, and for most breaches of building control, the council cannot take action after one year. Despite this, some conveyancers still insist on indemnity insurance – against a risk that cannot arise!

However, be warned that there is no limitation period for enforcement action in respect of any breach of Listed Building control, so a property owner can be subject to enforcement action at any time, even if they did not carry out the alterations. Further, actually doing the work or arranging for it to be done is a crime. Tread carefully if you are planning to buy a Listed Building.

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