Conveyancing .. the legal process for buying, selling, and remortgaging properties

Planning permission when buying a property

Planning permission when buying a property

When buying a property, any major alterations or additions that have been carried out by current or previous owners may well have required planning permission (and building regulations approval too). When viewing the property, if there looks like there has been a new structure added to the exterior of the building, or any major alteration to the internal structure of the house or flat, then it is always worth asking the vendor if planning permission and building regulations were satisfied.

Just some of the points to look for are as below:

  • Loft conversion or roof terrace in a conservation area
  • Two-storey rear or side extension
  • Construction of a permanent outbuilding, e.g. an office or garage
  • Solar panels
  • Gates and higher boundary walls
  • Internal work on a listed building
  • Properties that have two kitchens or look to have been used as flats at some point

If you go ahead and buy the property, the conveyancer/solicitor will uncover any problems if planning permission or buildings regulation certificates are not available, and could stop the process being able to complete .

What do sellers need to reveal ?

The principle of caveat emptor (“buyer beware ") applies when buying any property in England and Wales. This means it is the buyer’s responsibility, with help from the solicitor, to understand what they are buying. So its basically bought as seen. This is why conveyancers are necessary to ensure your purchase is safe, and the title will be clean after completion. If you are buying with a mortgage then it's reinforced by the lender that everything is investigated before completion, and that any issues are dealt with before the lender will release any funds. The issues are usually found by local authority searches and the surveyor that the lender sends out to inspect the property.

If when your conveyancer starts the conveyancing process, they identify anything that might need planning permission and/or building regulations, they will send what they call enquiries to the other side for clarification. If it is then established that planning permission and/or buildings regulation are needed, your conveyancer will request to see them before the conveyancing process can proceed any further.

Bad news

In some cases, one or more of the following may become clear:

  • The work likely needs, but does not have, planning permission
  • Planning permission has been refused
  • The work has not been signed off by a building inspector
  • Building regulations have been breached by the seller
  • The work is otherwise not compliant with applicable regulations

These issues may not always be deal-breakers, but you should carefully consider the risks of buying a property affected by such defects.


If this does arise, the buyer can

Apply for retrospective consent

The new owner can apply to the local authority for retrospective consent. Where the work is fully compliant and does not breach any conservation area or listed building-related restrictions, the council may grant this consent.

In some cases, an inspector may be unable to confirm whether the work is fully compliant with regulations (because the work is finished, plastered over, etc). The inspector may instead confirm that they will take no further enforcement action.

An indemnity policy

There is a risk that the council could refuse retrospective consent. As a result, the new owner may instead opt to take out an indemnity policy. The policy will insure against the cost of work or losses should the council take enforcement action.

If the council has already refused consent, the buyer may also find it impossible to take out a policy.

A solicitor should be able to advise as to which the best route is.











This website is owned by and forms a part of the business conducted by Value Conveyancer Ltd, company registration number 09221971. We are partnered with LPL (a trading name of Read Roper & Read Solicitors) who have been awarded the Law Society's Conveyancing Quality Scheme accreditation. More information can be found here.