Understanding building regulations and loft conversions
There is a complex set of Building Regulations that a loft conversion must satisfy for example:
The Party Wall Act 1996 protects adjacent or neighbouring buildings. If any work needs to be done on walls that fall under this act then notice in writing must be given to the third parties. See this Party Wall Act Explanatory Booklet for more info.
Any new room must meet fire standards. This requires adequate escape routes in the event of a fire for any new rooms. For more detailed advice see the Governments Planning Portal page on Loft Conversions.
If your new loft conversion is for habitable accommodation, then it needs to be planned professionally to ensure it confirms to stringent building regulations. Our technical draughtsmen will produce your plans to the highest standards and specifications. Our experts give due consideration to all the requirements of the regulations in the preparation of the plans, as well as monitoring the construction during the course of the work, thus ensuring they receive a completion certificate upon final completion of the conversion.
Building Regulations 2010.
These are legal requirements aimed at achieving adequate standards of building work within the new construction. These requirements are specified in separate ‘documents’ as part of the regulations, containing practical and technical guidance. They are known as ‘Approved Documents’ which cover different aspects of construction e.g. Part A (Structure), Part B (Fire Safety), Part L (Conservation of fuel and power) each to secure the health and safety of people in or about the building.
You are required to achieve compliance with the Building Regulations when considering a loft conversion, the proposed conversion will involve changes to the structure of the building, fire safety, sound and thermal insulation as well as adequate light and ventilation and finally a satisfactory access via the new staircase.
All Loft Conversions construct all its conversions under the Building (Approved Inspectors etc.) Regulations 2010 where an approved inspector will check our plans and make all necessary inspections of your proposed building work to ensure that it complies with the Building Regulations. The inspector will notify the local authority on your behalf about the intended building work. This is known as the initial notice. When satisfied that the building work complies with the Building Regulations, the approved inspector will issue plans certificate.
Upon completion of the work, the approved inspector will issue what is known as the final certificate to the local authority, confirming that the work in the initial notice is complete and that the inspector is satisfied that it complies with the Building Regulations requirements. A final notice will not be issued until the inspector is satisfied that the completed work fully complies with the Building Regulations.
Party Wall Act 1996.
If you are an owner of a terraced or semi detached dwelling contemplating a loft conversion, this could involve some kind of work to the wall or walls between yourselves and your neighbours, these walls are classed as Party Walls and therefore you have certain responsibilities under the act, being defined as a ‘Building Owner’ under ‘The Party Wall etc. Act 1996’.
The Act requires a ‘Building Owner’ of a property intending to carry out works to a party structure to serve notice on any affected adjoining owners. An adjoining owner cannot stop someone from exercising the rights given them by the Act, but can influence how and when the work is done.
There are three options available to an Adjoining Owner and these are described as follows:
- They may consent to the works described in the Notice.
- They may dissent from the works described in the Notice and appoint a recommended surveyor to act as an Agreed Surveyor.
- They may dissent from the works as described in the Notice and appoint a Surveyor of their own choice.
The Act envisages that, in most cases, there will be agreement about proposed works between the relevant owners. Therefore, it is obviously best to fully discuss your planned conversion with them prior to serving notice. A friendly discussion will allow you to explain the scope of the works and should reassure them that the work involved is relatively minor and of a straight forward nature. However, you must receive consent to the works in writing by getting the adjoining owner to complete the counterpart of a Party Structure Notice. Should the Adjoining Owner decide not to reply to the Notice within 14 days or dissent from the works and fail to name a Surveyor to act for them, then a ‘10-day Notice’ will need to be served requesting that they do so. If they fail to respond to this a surveyor will be empowered by the Act to make an appointment on their behalf so not to cause unnecessary delay to the commencement of the building works. Unfortunately, the surveyor’s fees are generally the responsibility of the Building Owner.
Please note that the Party Wall Surveyor is a ‘statutory appointment’: he or she has no Client and cannot be dismissed or instructed. The role is to act in the best interests of the wall and parties to it and, therefore, it is quite acceptable for an adjoining owner to both dissent from your proposals and to agree to the appointment of an agreed surveyor to act for both of you. It is equally acceptable for an adjoining owner to consent to the works and this will not deprive them of their legal rights or common law protection.