Most homeowners will at some time want, or need, to make changes to their property.  This could be anything from adding an extension or conservatory, converting a loft space or installing new double glazing or a central heating boiler.

Whilst such works are unlikely to need planning permission (although you should always check with your Local Authority),  they are more than likely to need Building Regulation Approval.  Building Regulations control the standard to which works must be done, and are periodically reviewed and updated.  They cover such diverse things as the spacing of joists to the level of insulation in lofts, and even the type of material that can be used on driveways.

When work is carried out under Building Regulation approval it needs to be inspected by the Local Authority or another body authorised to carry out the building control function, before being signed off.   It is important that this is done in order for a “Completion Certificate” to be issued.  If the works pass inspection,  you will receive a paper certificate which you should make sure you keep safe.  The existence of a completion certificate will be recorded in the Local Authority’s records.   When,  and if, you come to sell your property it will be disclosed on your buyer’s Local Authority search, and you will be asked to produce it.  If you are not able to do so, you may have to ask the Local Authority to provide a duplicate.  If the Local Authority is able to produce a copy from its records, it will charge you a fee for doing so.

A more recent development is the “Competent Person’s Certificate”.   This is an alternative to obtaining Building Regulation approval and is most commonly used for such things as the installation of new doors and windows (FENSA and others), new gas appliances including boilers (GASAFE),  solid fuel appliances (HETAS) and oil-fired appliances (OFTEC).  An electrician who is “Part P” certified may give the competent person’s certificate required for certain works in kitchens and bathrooms, which are areas of the house subject to stricter regulations (water and electricity don’t mix!).

As with the Building Regulation completion certificates, Competent Person’s Certificates will be disclosed on the result of Local Authority Searches.  However, unlike the former, the Local Authority does not keep, and is not able to provide, copies of Competent Person’s Certificates.   If you lose these you will have to apply to the relevant regulatory body for a copy, and again there will be cost involved.

If it is not possible to obtain copies of missing Building Regulation approvals or Competent Person’s Certificates, it is likely that you would be asked to provide your buyer with a title indemnity policy.  Whilst this is quite common, and most solicitors have arrangements with insurers which enable them to self-issue policies, there is, again, a cost involved, which, depending on the value of your property, can sometimes be quite considerable.

The moral is – keep your certificates safe!

If you would like to know more about any of the information mentioned in this article, then you can contact Paula Land in the Property team in Honiton on 01404 540024 or email paulaland@wbw.co.uk. WBW Solicitors has offices in Newton Abbot, Paignton, Torquay, Bovey Tracey, Exeter, Launceston, Exmouth, Sidmouth and Honiton.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.