The Building Regulations can be broken by not following the building control procedures set out for handling your building work. They can also be broken by carrying out building work which does not comply with the technical requirements contained in the Building Regulations. This will come to light during the inspections carried out by the building control service.
How are the Building Regulations enforced?
The local authority has a general duty to enforce the Building Regulations in its area and will do so by informal means wherever possible.
Where an approved inspector is providing the building control service, the responsibility for checking that the Regulations are complied with will lie with that inspector. They will mainly do this by advising you. However, they do not have enforcement powers. In a situation where they consider your building work does not comply with the Regulations they will not issue you with a final certificate and will cancel the initial notice by notifying your local authority. If no other approved inspector takes on the work, the building control service will automatically be taken on by your local authority. From this point on your local authority will also have enforcement powers to require you to alter your work, if they consider this necessary.
If a person carrying out building work breaks the Building Regulations, the local authority or another person may decide to take them to the magistrates’ court where they could be fined up to 5000 for the contravention, and up to 50 for each day the contravention continues after conviction.
This action (under section 35 of the Building Act 1984) will usually be taken against the builder or main contractor, and proceedings must be taken within two years from the completion of the work. Alternatively, or in addition, the local authority may (under section 36 of the Act) serve an enforcement notice on the owner requiring them to alter or remove work whichbreaks the regulations. If the owner does not comply with the notice the local authority has the power to undertake the work itself and recover the costs from the owner.
You can’t be served with a section 36 enforcement notice more than 12 months after the date of completion of the building work, but this does not affect a local authority’s (or any other person’s) right to apply to the courts for an injunction for the same purpose. A local authority also cannot take enforcement action under section 36 if the work which you have carried out is in accordance with your plans which the authority approved or failed to reject within the statutory time of five weeks (or two months with your agreement) from deposit of the plans.
What happens if you disagree with a local authority’s enforcement notice?
Normally a local authority’s enforcement notice will give you 28 days to rectify the building work.
If you wish to contest the notice on the grounds that you believe your building work does comply with the Building Regulations, you can advise your local authority that you would like to commission a written report from a suitably qualified person about the compliance of your work with a view to persuading the authority to withdraw the notice. In this event the 28 day period to rectify the building work is extended to 70 days.
Alternatively, you can appeal against the notice in the magistrates’ court and demonstrate that your building work complies. This option can be used either as an alternative to the above, or if proceedings under that option have been unsuccessful. You should make your appeal within 28 days of receiving the notice or within 70 days if you have used above option first.
If you are successful with either option, your local authority may have to pay your costs.
If on the other hand you believe that your work can’t be expected to comply with one or more of the requirements in the Building Regulations because they are too onerous or inapplicable, you do have the right to apply to your local authority for a relaxation or dispensation of the requirement(s) in question in order for your completed building work to be considered to achieve compliance.
Your application should be made within 28 days of receiving the enforcement notice from your authority. If they refuse your application you have a right of appeal (in England) to the Department for Communities and Local Government or (in Wales) to the Welsh Assembly Government against that refusal, providing you do so within one month of that decision.
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