What is building regulations approval?

To comply with the Building Act 1984 and the subsequent statutory instruments known as the Building Regulations, building regulations approval is required to construct certain structures in the United Kingdom.

It can usually be obtained in one of three ways:

1. By the full plans method, where drawings are deposited with a Building Control Body such as an Approved Inspector or the Local Authority and are subsequently checked for compliance with the Building Regulations.

The various stages of the work are also inspected and checked for compliance with the relevant technical requirements of the Building Regulations; by a Building Control Surveyor employed by either the Building Control Body (BCB).

Unlike planning permission, work may start before approval has been granted. It is also quite usual for the final building to differ in some respects to that which received full plans approval, in which case amended ‘as built’ plans are often required to be submitted to the appropriate Building Control Body.

2. By the building notice method, where notice of commencement of (minor) building work is given to the Local Authority at least two days prior to the commencement of work. The various stages of the work are then inspected and approved by the Local Authority, but no plans are checked. Note that this method may not be used if the premises contain a workplace, or creates new flats.

3. Approved Inspectors must issue their ‘Initial Notice’ (stating that the Approved Inspector is the building control body for the specified work project, at a specific address and/or building site) to the relevant Local Authority before any controlled building work starts on site.

Generally, fees are paid to the Building Control Body with each application, and will vary depending on the size and value of the project. Also, local authorities across the country vary, and each Approved Inspector is free to set their own levels of charges. Some types of work may be exempt from fees, e.g. adaptations or alterations for Disabled Persons.

Some work such as electrical and heating installations can be carried out by persons who can certify work as being Building Regulation compliant, without further inspection by either the Local Authority or an Approved Inspector. Any work certified in this way must however be registered with the Local Authority in the geographical area in which the work has been carried out.

A Building Control Body should issue a ‘Completion Certificate’ or ‘Final Certificate’ upon the practical completion of each building project, to state that the work meets the technical requirements of the Building Regulations.

If an Approved Inspector cannot do this due to omissions and/or known failures of the building work to show compliance with the relevant technical requirements of the Building Regulations, then the relevant Local Authority should investigate and consider the need to take appropriate enforcement action.

Building Regulation ‘Enforcement Action’ and/or ‘incomplete work status’ is normally recorded in the Local Lands Charges Register, held as a ‘public record’ by the relevant Local Authority. Solicitors must search these records prior to any purchase of any building.