WHAT HAPPENS IF I CONTRAVENE THE BUILDING REGULATIONS?


6.1 The Building Regulations can be contravened by not following the building control procedures they set out for handling your building work, and/or by carrying out building work which does not comply with the requirements contained in the Building Regulations. The local authority has a general duty to enforce the Building Regulations in its area and will seek to do so by informal means wherever possible. This duty extends to and forms a part of its function when it is carrying out the Building Control Service.


6.2 Where an approved inspector is providing the Building Control Service, the responsibility for checking that the Building Regulations are complied with during the course of your building work will lie with that inspector. In the main, they will do this by advising you as explained in paragraph 5.24. However, approved inspectors do not have enforcement powers. Instead, the regulations provide that in a situation where they consider your building work does not comply with the Building Regulations they will not issue you with a final certificate and in addition will cancel the initial notice by notifying your local authority (see paragraph 5.28). If no other approved inspector takes on the work, the Building Control Service will automatically be taken on by your local authority. From this point on your local authority will also have enforcement powers to require you to alter your work, if they consider this necessary.


6.3 If a person carrying out building work contravenes the Building Regulations, the local authority or another person may decide to take them to the magistrates’ court where they could be fined up to £5000 for the contravention, and up to £50 for each day the contravention continues after conviction (section 35 of the Building Act 1984). This action will usually be taken against the builder or main contractor, although proceedings must be taken within 6 months of the offence (section 127 of the Magistrates Courts Act 1980). Alternatively, or in addition, the local authority may serve an enforcement notice on the owner requiring them to alter or remove work which contravenes the regulations (section 36 of the 1984 Act). If the owner does not comply with the notice the local authority has the power to undertake the work itself and recover the costs of doing so from the owner.

 

6.4 A section 36 enforcement notice cannot be served on you after the expiration of 12 months from the date of completion of the building work, but this does not affect a local authority’s (or any other person’s) right to apply to the Courts for an injunction for the same purpose. A local authority also cannot take enforcement action under sections 35 and 36 if the work which you have carried out is in accordance with your plans which the authority approved or failed to reject within the statutory time of five weeks (or two months with your agreement) from deposit of the plans (see paragraph 5.6).


6.5 Notwithstanding the possibility of enforcement action, you should bear in mind that if the local authority considers that building work carried out does not comply with the Building Regulations and it is not rectified, the authority will not issue you with a completion certificate (see paragraph 5.22) and the contravention may come to light through a local land search enquiry when you wish to sell your property.

 

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DISAGREE WITH THE LOCAL AUTHORITY’S ENFORCEMENT NOTICE?


6.6 Normally the enforcement notice will give you 28 days to rectify the building work. If you wish to contest the notice on the grounds that you believe your building work does comply with the Building Regulations, you have the following options:
(i) to advise your local authority that you wish to obtain a written report from a suitably qualified person about the compliance of your work (section 37 of the Building Act 1984) with a view to persuading the authority to withdraw the notice. In this event the 28 day period to rectify the building work is extended to 70 days.
(ii) to appeal against the notice in the magistrates’ court and demonstrate there that your building work complies (section 40 of the Building Act 1984). This option can be used either as an alternative to (i), or if proceedings under (i) have been unsuccessful. You must make your appeal within 28 days of receiving the notice, or within 70 days if you have used option (i) first.


If you are successful with option (i) or (ii), your local authority may be required to pay your costs.

 

6.7 If on the other hand you believe that your work cannot be expected to comply with one or more of the requirements in the Building Regulations because they are too onerous or inapplicable, you do have the right to apply to your local authority for a relaxation or dispensation of the requirement(s) in question in order for your completed building work to be considered to achieve compliance (see paragraph 5.20). Your application must be made within 28 days of receiving the enforcement notice from your authority. If they refuse your application you have a right of appeal (in England) to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister or (in Wales) to the Welsh Assembly Government against that refusal, providing you do so within one month of that decision. However, if you take this course of action in response to an enforcement notice, and if you have originally maintained that your work was in compliance, your case is likely to be more difficult to justify. You should consult the Guide to Determinations and Appeals (see Annex B: ‘Sources of information’).

 

HOW CAN I GO ABOUT CHECKING WHETHER UNAUTHORISED BUILDING WORK COMPLIES WITH THE BUILDING REGULATIONS?


6.8 The Building Regulations provide for a property owner to apply to the local authority for a regularisation certificate in respect of ‘unauthorised’ building work. This means work which was carried out on or after 11 November 1985 and which should have been submitted to the Building Regulations procedures but was not. You will be charged for this regularisation service.

 

6.9 In assessing compliance the local authority may request the ‘opening up’ of unauthorised work. The authority will then decide if remedial work needs to be carried out, in accordance with the Building Regulations which were applicable to that work when it was originally carried out, before they can issue a regularisation certificate. A regularisation certificate is evidence (but not conclusive evidence) that the requirements of the Building Regulations specified in the certificate have been complied with.


6.10 If you are concerned about unauthorised building work which was built before 11 November 1985 and which may not comply with the Building Regulations, you should discuss the problem with your local authority.