Understanding the Building Regulations

The Building Regulations are extensive and approval is required for most building work in the UK.

What are the Building Regulations and Building Control?

The Building Regulations are grouped in to categories A (structure) to P (electrical) and exist to ensure the health, safety, welfare and convenience of people in and around buildings, as well as the water and energy efficiency of buildings. The main function of Building Control is to ensure compliance with Building Regulations.

What is the Party Wall Act 1996?

The Party Wall Act 1996 is legislation controlling building work that affects a wall, fence or any part of your neighbour's structure. You're not required to consult with neighbours under building regulations, but you may be required to issue a Party Wall Notice. It is advisable to consult with a Party Wall Surveyor before starting any building work.

When do I need Building Regulations approval?

Building work as defined in the Building Regulations will normally need approval from a Building Control Body.

Examples of the type of works that need approval from a Building Control Body:

  • Extensions
  • Loft conversions
  • Garage conversions
  • Underpinning
  • Cavity wall insulation

For work involving the installation of certain types of services and fittings, tradesmen who are registered with a Competent Person Scheme are able to self-certify their work. This means that you won't need to separately notify a Building Control Body.

Who is responsible for meeting the requirements of the Building Regulations?

Whoever carries out the building work should be responsible for ensuring that the work is compliant with the Building Regulations. However, responsibility ultimately lies with the building owner, who may be served a notice if work doesn't comply with the Building Regulations.

Where can I get Building Regulations approval?

Use one of the following Building Control Bodies (BCB) to get Building Regulations approval:

  • Your Local Authority Building Control office. Building Control application enquiries can be submitted to your local authority online via Local Authority Building Control (LABC).
  • Approved Inspectors are private sector companies who are approved to carry out the Building Control service instead of your local authority.

For certain minor works, tradesmen and builders belonging to a Competent Person Scheme can self-certify that their work complies with Building Regulations.

How do I get Building Regulations approval?

If you use a Local Authority Building Control office there are three types of pre-site application:

  • Full plans where drawings and other related information are submitted and a formal decision is given.
  • Building notice where minimal information is submitted and no formal decision is given. Work is inspected while in progress and approved on completion.
  • Regularisation where retrospective approval is sought for work carried out without Building Regulations approval.

Once work is underway, the Building Control Service will need to make routine site inspections at various stages. Notice should be given to allow Building Control adequate time to inspect the work. If suitable notice isn't given, Building Control may ask for work to be opened up for inspection. Talk to your local Building Control Service for more information about the inspection process.

If you use an Approved Inspector you should jointly notify your Local Authority that an Approved Inspector is carrying out the building control function.

If you use a tradesman who belongs to a Competent Person Scheme they will self-certify their work and notify Building Control.

What happens if I fail to comply with the Building Regulations?

If your building work doesn't comply with Building Regulations you may be subject to enforcement notices and fines. If your local authority considers that the building work doesn't comply with Building Regulations, they won't issue you with a completion certificate. Unless work is rectified, any contraventions will appear in local land searches if you sell your property.

Competent Person Schemes were introduced by the Government to allow individuals and businesses to self-certify that their work complies with the Building Regulations. Competent Person Schemes are an alternative to submitting a building notice to Local Authority Building Control or using an Approved Inspector.

Why use a tradesman who is registered with a Competent Person Scheme?

Tradesmen who are registered with a Competent Person Scheme are vetted to ensure they are qualified to carry out specific types of work in accordance with the Building Regulations. Scheme members are normally covered by warranties and you should have access to a complaints procedure if work is not compliant.

Registered tradesmen will notify Building Control on your behalf and issue you with a certificate of completion. If you don't use a registered tradesman then you will have to notify Building Control and pay a fee to have the work inspected.

What type of work should I use a Competent Person Scheme member for?

  • New installation or replacement of a heating system or any boiler
  • New installation or replacement of an oil tank
  • Alterations to existing plumbing/electrics in kitchens or bathrooms
  • New electrical installations in bathrooms, kitchens and outdoors
  • Installation of fixed air conditioning systems
  • Installation of additional radiators to an existing heating systems
  • Replacement window and door units