Selling a house without building regulations is not impossible, but it is more complicated since a potential homebuyer may be wary about the lack of permissions.
There are some considerations if your property has been renovated, extended or built without obtaining building regulations approval and you need to understand these to complete the sale.
It’s also important to understand that this situation is surprisingly common, and there are two situations that may lead to a property not having building certifications, which include:
- Installing solar panels or converting a space that requires the meeting of building regulation requirements – but the owner may have forgotten to file an application;
- You may not have carried out the work and a previous owner has done so but they don’t have the relevant certifications – but it is your responsibility to deliver a solution.
One of the problems for meeting building regs, is that the property must be inspected before, during and after any alterations work.
All building regulations should be respected and met and not having the relevant certifications means your property could be devalued.
Not complying with building regulation requirements
As mentioned, selling a house without building regs is not uncommon, but there are repercussions. They include:
Enforcement action may be carried out against you when the building authority has been notified about the lack of certification – even if the building alterations were carried out by the previous owner.
If after the building authorities have inspected the property and the alterations have failed, you will need to redo them to comply with regs. This means a potentially hefty bill, a property revaluation and a loss of profit.
One of the issues when selling a property without building regs is that the buyer may not be able to get a mortgage because the structural works do not adhere to regulations.
There are other issues to consider and the most important is the issue over enforcement action which could lead to court proceedings and the potential of being fined.
While it’s almost impossible to sell a house without building regulations, you could sell an undervalued property to a cash buyer because they won’t be needing to meet the mortgage lender’s criteria.
How to solve not having building regs
There are a number of steps to take before selling a property without building regulations and you need to consider how much money, time and effort you are willing to put in.
Essentially, there are two solutions when it comes to selling a property without relevant building regulations and they are:
Apply for retrospective building control approval
The safest solution is to obtain building control approval for the works that have already been carried out. This is known as ‘regularisation’ and a building control surveyor will carry out an inspection and assess whether it meets the relevant regulations and standards.
However, the process can be time-consuming and complicated but it’s the best route to obtaining a solution. If you do meet the standards, then you’ll be presented with a regularisation certificate. This inspection must be carried out by local authority inspectors, and you will need to pay for this to be done.
However, if the work doesn’t meet the required standards you will be required to rectify any issues at your own cost. This can be both disruptive and expensive.
Obtain indemnity insurance
The other potential solution is to obtain indemnity insurance which can be easier and cheaper. You need to consult with solicitors who understand property law and the potential benefits and risks of going down this route. The big advantage of indemnity insurance is that it will protect the buyer, and also a mortgage lender, if there is a defect in the property’s title that cannot be resolved.
It’s important to appreciate that you only pay for indemnity insurance once and it’s not like a conventional insurance policy. This will then cover you from any enforcement action issued by the authorities and will cover the cost of selling the property.
One of the downsides of obtaining indemnity insurance is that you must not notify the local authority of your situation (doing so will invalidate any indemnity policy that is, or will be, in place). And once the authority has an enforcement action underway, you will not be able to buy indemnity insurance.
You combine indemnity insurance by using your conveyancing solicitor and the price is related to the cost of the property being sold. This is another cost for the seller.
The insurance will cover you should the local authority undertake legal proceedings – but they can’t do this unless they deem the structure as being dangerous.
The cost of indemnity insurance for a property worth £500,000 is around £175.
Even if you opt for this route, you would still be advised to have the safety and structural integrity of any work carried out inspected by a qualified professional.
Who will pay for the indemnity insurance policy?
Sometimes the seller will pay for the indemnity policy, sometimes the buyer and sometimes the buyer and seller may split the cost.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that when buying indemnity insurance, you are only protected against the local authority’s enforcement action – you are not protected against the costs of repairing substandard works that have been carried out.
And you may find that the buyer will rely on the surveys that are carried out on the property because the insurance is no guarantee of quality work.
What are building regulations?
Whenever structural works, or any work that involves the changing of services or pipes, are completed, then the house owner needs to get a completion certificate.
Building regulations will cover:
- Electrical work;
- New builds;
- Extensions and alterations;
- Heating installations;
- Fire safety;
- Plumbing work;
- Replacement windows and doors.
It’s this certificate that will confirm that the work has been carried out to the relevant standards laid down by the local council’s building regulation department.
An inspector will need to be notified before any work begins so they can inspect at the beginning and during the works under progress.
It’s important to appreciate that building regulation requirements do change, and it may be that the work carried out may not have been subject to a completion certificate at that time.
This also means that if there’s no completion certificate, does not necessarily mean that the work is not up to standard.
The downside is that since the building regulations officer must inspect the work from the beginning, means they will be unable to offer a retrospective certificate.
Selling a home without a building regulations completion certificate
As the seller, the conveyancing solicitor will hand you various forms on the property to complete once you accept an offer.
It is these forms that help you disclose your knowledge of any works that have been carried out on your home.
These forms also stipulate that copies of the appropriate building regulations approval are attached.
It’s important to appreciate that you should be honest and not omit any details.
That’s because if the buyer does discover an issue, they can take legal action against you for any losses or costs incurred because of the lack of building consent.
And these costs could be hefty and include you paying for remedial work, legal fees and a drop in the property’s value.
Also, not having a completion certificate may slow down the sale, jeopardise it or even lead to a renegotiation on the price.
Work carried out by the previous owner
There’s also the issue of any work carried out by the previous owner because you are responsible.
Even if you did not carry out the work, the local authority will hold you liable for anything not meeting their building regulations because you are the property owner.
Sadly, the previous owner who carried out the work should have obtained the relevant permissions and certificates of completion from the local authority’s buildings inspector.
It’s worth checking that the work that has been carried out may not have been subject to building regulation when the work was done.
If that is the situation, then you may not require a completion certificate.
Otherwise, you have inherited the liability if the previous owner was not aware of building regulations or has completed the work without telling the local authority.
Selling a property without building regulations
Here, we take a look at some of the common questions about selling a property without building regulations.
Is it impossible selling a home without building regulations approval?
No, there are auctioneers and estate agents who will have experience in selling a property without building regulations approval. You may find buyers tend to be hesitant when it comes to making an offer because there’s no building regulation compliance certificate.
When do I need the building regulations approval for my property?
Depending on the type of work that you are having done, you will need to get approval before the works begin. The building regs will apply to a wide range of home construction aspects including the electrical wiring, plumbing and construction materials being used. Check with your local planning authority for the latest building regulations approval requirements.
Should I tell the buyer about the lack of building regulations certificate?
As the seller of a property without building regulation certificates, you will need to tell the buyer.
You must disclose this information when selling that the property does not have the necessary compliance certificates for building regulations. You must not mislead deliberately the buyer because you are then at risk of facing legal action should they discover the lack of certificates after buying the property.
Can I get a certificate of compliance for work that has been done?
If you know when selling a property that there are no certificates of building regulation compliance, you could seek a regularisation certificate. This means you will have official approval for the work that has been carried out and has met the necessary standards. This can be time-consuming – which could be an issue if you want to sell your home quickly.
What is an indemnity insurance policy for a property without building regs?
An indemnity insurance policy is a relatively affordable cover to protect you and the buyer of your property against the costs that may come with any enforcement action carried out by the local planning authority.
Advice about building regulations in the UK
For more information, there is a wealth of advice on the .Gov website about building regulations, and the documents that you need.