Permits, Codes, Licenses -- and WHY YOU SHOULD CARE!

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Post by sharward »

Lest you in the UK think that you never need a permit...

Lou, esteemed forum member hailing from Hampshire, England, recently posted this interesting story about his experience getting permission to build there:
Lou wrote:this could be really helpful to anyone building in the U.K. :oops:

Government legislation dictates that every domestic property in the U.K. has a ‘Permitted Development Right’. In simple terms, this represents a mandatory right to extend/develop your dwelling without the necessary need for planning, if you meet certain criteria. For a semi-detached property this is currently 50 cubic meters, and for a detached, it’s 70 cubic meters. Now what this means in reality, is that if you visit your local Council Offices and pick up their leaflets on planning, you’ll look through the flowchart of questions, and if you answer 'no' to all those questions, you’ll almost certainly not need ‘Planning Permission’. This is exactly what I did back in Dec last year before I joined the forum. Not infringing a public highway, not building higher than the existing building, blah blah, you name it, I was totally within the planning criteria. It wasn’t until I went back to the offices in early March to let them know what I was intending, that I found out that the permitted development right for our home was removed by the Council themselves when it was built back in 1976! This did not show up on the 'Land Searches' when we purchassed. Shit, Bummer etc. Guys I urge you all to watch for this one as it proves, (Keith would rightly be so quick to point this out), that you can’t assume anything when it comes to ‘Codes and Permits’ (Building Regs/Planning in U.K. speak).

Ok, so what seemed then like a potentially disastrous set-back, turned out to have a couple of positives.

1. Since the Council removed the development right, we didn’t need to pay for the planning application. Nice one!

2. More than that, since we had effectively no right to build, we didn’t need to apply for a ‘change of use’. Now this bit is critical since it was the change of use gag that could have potentially ruined the whole project, and I didn’t even know it.

Faced with this unexpected situation, I clearly had no alternative but to submit an application. This wasn’t easy as we want to build a conservatory on the back of the house as well. The next step had to be to get someone to design the conservatory, and then get an Architect to draw everything up so that all the building work could be submitted on the same application. This of course takes a shed-load of time, but, lo and behold, the application for a single storey garage extension to the front, and conservatory to the rear was submitted on the 1st May.

Now as anyone here in the U.K. will tell you, Local Authorities seem to take an unbelievable amount of time to get their act together – two months minimum to be precise!

No worries Lou, go have a chat to the neighbours before they’re informed by the Council of what’s going on. They were all cool, but concerned about, guess what, noise! How many times do we talk studio to the over fifty fives, and they automatically think of unbearable noise levels, :shock: heavy-rock bands turning up in dodgy vans at 1.00am, :twisted: groupies taking drugs, :?: pizza boxes all over the drive, :cry: empty beer cans in the street etc? (As if I’d tolerate pizza boxes on the drive!) :lol: This really hacks me off, but I kept my cool, went and saw them all, and explained that I’d been producing music in the house for over two years, and they in turn, confirmed that they’d heard nothing. (No they’re not all deaf!) So there I was thinking all was going as smoothly as it could, when I found out that one of them had put in a letter of complaint after meeting with me!!! Hypocrite!

Here comes the next bonus for U.K. builders, (if there’s no change of use issue), noise has nothing to do with planning. This is solely down to environmental heath, which in turn means, build it properly to give maximum isolation and absorption, and if there is no disturbance, your neighbours have no right to complain. They could of course winge on about increased traffic, but hell, we’re not cutting peoples’ hair! A client in a studio is likely to be there all day, hardly highway congestion! :roll:

What this all translates to, is that I’m currently just over three months behind schedule, and at the real risk of upsetting the very people here who have offered me so much help: Kendale, Gulfo and of course John – (thank you all again). :oops: I had no idea that there might be an issue with this, and nether would I have started posting back in December if I thought there would be.

The end result, (I hope you’ll all be glad to know), is that my application was approved and ‘rubber stamped’ on the 28th June, so in short Gentlemen we are ‘clear to go’ and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it - yippee! :lol: :lol: :lol:
Don't miss his build thread.

--Keith :mrgreen:
"Converting a garage into living space requires a city permit . . . homeowners insurance won't cover a structure that's been changed without a building permit . . ." --Sacramento Bee, May 27, 2006
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Location: Northern Ireland

Post by Padraig »

Here is some interesting information we discovered while talking to a prospective architect in relation to our new project. Hopefully it will be of help to members in the UK and specifically here in Northern Ireland. I'll mainly be quoting estimates and figures so that anyone planning a similar project will be better able to budget for it. Hopefully I'm not repeating information that has been posted before. I poked around but I couldn't find anything specific. :) I'm by no means any kind of expert (up until six months ago I couldn't have told you a damn thing about construction, planning or anything) but hopefully someone finds this useful.

We are building our studio in large fifteen year old farm building, a 190 sq/m poured concrete slab, with concrete block walls (no cavity) and a large corregated iron/sheet plastic roof section that rises up and tapers off into a dome at around 30ft.

Planning Applications
First of all, in Northern Ireland (I'm not sure if it's the same for the UK) but the planning application has to be filled out SEVEN times, including all the maps and drawings. After calling the planning authority, we discovered we only needed to apply for a 'change of use', which will cost at least £550. An ordinance survey map of the area (at 1:2500, required as part of the application) or ACE map can be purchased at the local Ordinance Survey office (in our case it's on the Stranmillis Road in Belfast) for £30. You can walk in off the street without appointment.

For applications such as this, you don't necessarily need an architect. If you can find someone who is capable of drawing up the plans, that's fine. They don't need to be part of any professional body. You will find that those that are will not be overly willing to do a 'homer' or a project that's come to them outside of their office. The basic reason for this is to do with insurance should flawed plans lead to any kind of legal issue. We're planning on going through an office, and an architect registered with one such body, just to be on the safe side. We'll probably be looking at £800 or more. The good thing about this and the reason that I'm including this information here is that your architect should be able to take your project from design, through the planning and permit stage through to completion and they will be able to keep you advised on whether or not your design is up to code.

SBEN & Air Permeability
In 2006, new legislation came in concerning energy loss in commercial and domestic buildings. In order for Building Control to sign off on our project, we have to get a specialist to come out and do what's known as an SBEN calculation (Simplified Building Energy Model). We also have to have something called an Air Permeability Test. The SBEN costs around £800 and as soon as I have a quote for the APT I'll update with it here. According to the architect, these two tests are required before we can pass Building Control. These calculations are listed in Technical Booklet F2 (2006). It can be found here.

Disabled Access
For those interested in making their premises up to code with the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act), you can find the codes of compliance at the same URL. You're looking for Booklet H and Booklet R.

CMD Regulations
Here in Northern Ireland if the total cost of the build project exceeds £30,000 (as ours might), you are required to appoint a H&S Coordinator (health and safety). This officer has to keep a health and safety file with method statements, liason with the H&S officer/executive and ensure that all regulations are complied with. This means that in order to set foot on your building site, everyone must wear a hard hat, hi-visibility vest and steel toe-capped boots. The entire site must be surrounded by signage drawing attention to the dangers and regulations that must be obeyed. This becomes a nightmare for us as the studio owners as if these regulations are not obeyed and someone gets injured on sight, they can take either the contractor or us to the cleaners. It sucks that we're living in a claim culture, but paying the extra money to comply could save you a whole heap of money in the long run.

Feel free to send me a PM or send me an e-mail at if you want to discuss anything further. :)
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Post by chrisrnps »

Dan Fitzpatrick wrote:just think, if it were true that the insurer could seize on something like this to not pay ... say somebody, moved an outlet from the inside of their garage and into the laundry room, or whatever :) without a permit ... and later that outlet was the source of a fire. the insurance company could refuse to pay?
Dan Fitzpatrick wrote:i just put in a whole house fan in my hallway last weekend. if my work causes a fire, can my insurance company refuse to pay? because technically, that work required a permit.
Not only can insurance companies refuse to pay damage claims if you do electrical or any other work or 'improvements' without the required permits / inspections / everything-above-board - you could find your coverage dropped if they find out.
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Re: Permits, Codes, Licenses -- and WHY YOU SHOULD CARE!

Post by Burgundia »

Does anyone know of a case in the US in which an unpermitted addition or conversion, built to code by a licensed contractor, was successfully covered under a home insurance policy?

Again in the US---especially my location---is there any legal method other than a city permit for obtaining certification that construction was done to code?
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Joined: Sat Jun 12, 2010 5:23 am
Location: Houston TEXAS

Re: Permits, Codes, Licenses -- and WHY YOU SHOULD CARE!

Post by ndcomix »

If anyone out there knows the regulations for Texas, please share! I have been attempting to make contact with some builders I know to get their input.

Thanks! (I'll share what I learn if I don't hear back from anyone on the forums here)

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Re: Permits, Codes, Licenses -- and WHY YOU SHOULD CARE!

Post by specialkm »

I remodeled my home in Los Angeles including converting an unpermitted room over my garage to a studio. I pulled permits for all the work. The room had been constructed a very long time ago and possibly could have been done before LA required building permits. For example, there is no permit on record for the original building of the house (1936).

My experience with building permits is that it really was no big deal and wouldn't be unless you were going to haphazardly construct an unsafe structure. None of the inspections were stressful in the least and we were only required to change one little thing upon inspection. There was a little give and take for getting my studio room signed off as it had a few non code issues already built into it. I also found out my inspector was real keen on shearing every wall possible and even though he didn't actually require it in a lot of other construction going on in the house, we followed his suggestion and put a layer of plywood on every wall in the house that had been taken down to bare studs which was most of the house. Because we did this our inspector was much more lenient on approving existing structure non code complying issues which we could have possibly been forced to change. All in all, not really a big deal and kept my contractors and subs from doing shoddy work (well sort of).

Just a little insurance story -

I had to do a little fix in the studio bathroom as the builders left a copper water supply line for the toilet too short to get a valve on. In an effort to solder a connector and longer piece of copper tubing on to the existing nipple I accidently created a spark that shot through the now enlarged hole I had created (so as not to start the wall on fire with my torch) and behind the wall which quickly (I mean in seconds!) caught whatever was behind the lath and plaster on fire. In seconds the room was engulfed in smoke and as I had the water turned off for the plumbing work, I quickly ran out and grabbed the garden hose and with the hose gushing water everywhere, carried it into the studio bathroom, stuck it into the hole and started spraying water everywhere I could behind the plaster. I was pretty sure I had extinguished the fire, but not leaving anything to chance I decided to rip out the entire bathroom wall. Needless to say this created quite a mess and the water damaged a section of my newly installed studio maple floor. There was enough damage that I decided to call my insurance company even though at this point the room had not had final inspections and been completely signed off.

Never at any point did my insurance company ask if the room had been permitted or if it had passed inspection. I also freely admitted that I was the cause of the fire and damage. The insurance company cut a check to cover the damages (minus my deductible) no questions asked. The adjuster just said I was lucky I didn't burn the whole damn house down.

It's my guess that the only reason they might contest payment on a claim would be if the cause of the fire or damage was due to something that was built very wrong and illegal. I mean how much more at fault could anyone possibly be than my own boneheaded accident.

Needless to say I now only do plumbing work requiring a blow torch under complete protest :mrgreen:
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Re: Permits, Codes, Licenses -- and WHY YOU SHOULD CARE!

Post by thismanysounds »

Here is a sad reminder that these things are to be taken seriously. We have had our own fun and games with planning & building regulations, but anything is better than this:

Musician's 'dream' recording studio is demolished
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Re: Permits, Codes, Licenses -- and WHY YOU SHOULD CARE!

Post by Soundman2020 »

Now that is just very sad, in so many ways. I really feel for that guy.

The article probably only tells part of the story, and doubtless there's more to it than just that, but it's still very depressing that the petty bureaucrats couldn't figure out a way around their own silliness, and just issue a permit or waiver of some type.

But it's a powerful reminder of the importance of making sure that you do have all your red tape in place, with all the signatures and stamps that keep the lowly pen-pushers happy, at each point in the process. Because they really can shut you down if you don't.

Thanks for posting that.

- Stuart -
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