Can I get home insurance without a completion certificate?

April 11, 2022

A completion certificate is an official document issued by a local authority’s building control department which confirms building works to a property have been carried out satisfactorily and safely, in accordance with building regulations.

When you sell, buy, mortgage or insure a property that has had some type of building work done that may have required compliance with building regulations, you may encounter problems if there is no completion certificate for those works.

Here’s what you should know about arranging buildings insurance, or buying or selling a house, without a building regulations compliance certificate.

Are building regulations the same as planning permissions?

The meaning of Building regulations

The meaning of Planning Permission

Is there a difference between building regulations and building control?

Should I buy a house without building regulations?

Can I get buildings insurance without building regulations?

How to get a completion certificate (backdated)

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Are building regulations the same as planning permissions?

No, they mean different things and are two separate local authority departments.

The meaning of Building regulations

The Building Regulations 2010 cover building (the construction of) a property and any additional building works after the date of construction such as:

  • foundations or underpinning works
  • damp proofing
  • insulation
  • ventilation
  • heating
  • fire hazards and escape routes

These regulatory standards are for the design and construction of buildings and encompass health and safety standards to protect anyone using a building, ensure fuel and power are conserved, and that appropriate facilities (including accessible ones) are provided.

Before carrying out any type of building work at a property you need to check whether building regulations approval is required, as you may regret not doing so at a later date.

You could need building regulations approval for:

  • replacing doors and windows
  • replacing roof coverings on pitched or flat roofs
  • installing or replacing central heating
  • adding additional radiators to a heating system
  • replacement fuse boxes and electrics
  • installation of a bathroom with plumbing work
  • changes to electrics close to a bath or shower
  • installing a fixed air-conditioning unit

Visit the planning portal for more information including who to contact to find out if building regulations approval is required.

If you want to apply, visit the building control section of the website.

The meaning of Planning Permission

Planning permission is formal permission from a local authority’s planning department for you to go ahead and construct (build) or alter a building (i.e. a loft conversion or extension).

Local planning departments are primarily concerned with the appearance of the proposed building works, and how these building works may impact neighbouring properties and the local community in accordance with an authority’s ‘local plan’.

Very often, planning permission and building regulations approval are both necessary when carrying out building works, but not always.

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Is there a difference between building regulations and building control?

Yes, the differences are:

  • building regulations are legal regulatory standards that must be strictly adhered to during a property’s construction and if any subsequent building works are carried out at a later date.  Predominantly, building regulations are there to ensure the health and safety of any person/s who will use the building in the future, and
  • building control is the government’s local authority department that oversees the enforcement of those standards and, upon approval of works, will issue a completion certificate - this is otherwise known as a ‘building control sign off’.

However, if the building works are not to a satisfactory standard (i.e. they breach building regulations), building control will first seek informal enforcement of the regulations and, if these requested alterations or removal works are not adhered to, may then go on to prosecute and fine the person who carried out the offending works (i.e. a builder).

Additionally, a local authority may choose to issue a formal enforcement notice (under section 36 of the Building Act 1984) on the property owner. And if the property owner fails to comply with the enforcement notice, the local authority has the right to carry out the necessary works themselves and then recover costs from the property owner.

An enforcement notice on the property owner will not be issued until 12 months after the date the building works were completed.

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Should I buy a house without building regulations?

It’s not recommended, no, but each case is different.

Whether or not you should buy a house that has no building regulations completion certificate can depend on:

  • if the lack of building regulations relates to the construction of the property
  • or if the lack of building regs relates to subsequent building works, it can depend on:
    • the date on which those were carried out
    • the nature of the works
    • whether a retrospective completion certificate (called a regularisation certificate) can be sought or an adequate building regs indemnity policy can be bought and paid for by the seller

When you’re in the process of purchasing a property, as part of the title checking process prior to exchange and completion, your solicitor or conveyancer will request a ‘local search’ against the property. The results of this local search will reveal whether or not there is a missing completion certificate.

If a completion certificate is missing, your conveyancer or solicitor may do one or more of the following:

  • report the lack of building regs approval to your lender (if you’re taking out a mortgage loan to purchase a property) and seek the lender’s approval to proceed - but depending on the nature of the works and other risk factors, despite offering you a ‘mortgage in principle’, your lender may refuse to proceed to a full mortgage offer
  • suggest that you pay for and arrange (or ask the seller to pay some or all of the costs towards) a full structural survey of the property to ensure it is safe and sound to live in
  • attempt to renegotiate the purchase price (as properties are not worth as much without building regulations consent)
  • if the building works were carried out after 1985, may request that the seller seeks a ‘Regularisation’ (retrospective building control approval) before proceeding with the purchase but this is not always possible and will seriously delay the sale going through
  • suggest the seller pays for an indemnity insurance policy for lack of buildings approval to protect you from any potential legal action by the local authority in the future for non-compliance

Remember, if the lack of building regulations relates to potentially dangerous works, by proceeding with a purchase without a full structural survey you could be putting your (and if you have one, your family’s) lives at risk by moving into a property that hasn’t been officially verified as being safe to use and live in.

Can I get buildings insurance without building regulations?

Even if you successfully arrange buildings insurance, in the event of a claim, your insurer could refuse to pay out because the property did not have the requisite legal approval for its construction or subsequent building works (as applicable). 

This means that if your house burnt down to a crisp, you’d be left with nothing other than a pile of ashes for a house and a potentially huge mortgage debt you can’t afford to pay off - and nothing to show for it!

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How to get a completion certificate (backdated)

Selling a house without building regs can be difficult so if you’re aware that the property you own doesn’t have a completion certificate and the building work was carried out on or after 11 November 1985, then you should seek to remedy this as follows.

  • Apply for a Regularisation Certificate (i.e. make a retrospective building regs application) to your local authority’s building control department.
  • Provide plans and measurements, etc, to show exactly what work was carried out and then your local building control officer will arrange to inspect your property.
  • Unfortunately, depending on the nature of the building works you’re seeking regularisation of, a buildings inspector may require parts of your property to be dismantled to expose the works undertaken and remove or rectify certain works. Bear in mind that however inconvenient and perhaps costly this is, it could save you time, money, hassle and stress in the future when you go to sell your property.

If you plan to have building works carried out on your property, click here to find out more and how to apply to get a completion certificate from your local building control department or click here to apply online.

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