Exemption from Building Regulations?

Exemption from Building Regulations?

Do I Need Permission - Ask An Expert Dear Do I Need Permission,

My inquiry is actually on behalf of my mother who has been granted a Certificate of Lawfulness, based upon her occupancy of her self-built dwelling for over 4 years.

We thought that if she were granted this certificate it would be the conclusion of the matter and that she would be able to live peacefully in her home. However the council is adamant that she now also needs to apply for a building warrant or potentially face prosecution.

In reading online we have never heard of people who have been successful in being granted a Certificate of Lawfulness being asked to comply with the building regulations. In the Chapter 7 handbook (an NGO that gives advice on planning matters) it is quite categorical that it is not necessary for people to have to comply with building regulations if they have been given a Certificate of Lawfulness and on the phone stated that they have no knowledge of anyone else facing this obstacle in all the cases they have been involved with and heard of.

If this were true, as opposed to what the council is saying, it would mean that planning law ‘outweighs’ the building regulations legislation.

However they are an NGO based in England, as were the news stories… and maybe there are key differences in Scottish law in this area?

Is it possible that the building is exempt from enforcement of the building regulations? If so is there an exact area of law that states this that we can refer to?

Also is it possible that the building, my mother’s home, might be classified as a shed within the meaning of Section 73 of the Public Health (Scotland) Act 1897 and therefore exempt form building regulations?

Thank you for your time with this..

Best wishes, CB
Question Posted By – cb In Area – North East Scotland

  1. Do I Need PermissionDo I Need Permission11-23-2015


    From the above I take it that you have been granted a certificate of lawfulness in regards to planning permission for the property?

    In Scotland you are required by law to have planning permission and building warrant approval for works you carry out where these works are not classed as permitted development (planning permission) or exempt (building regulation). Part of the building regulations do allow the council to order removal of un authorised works. I would note that this is very rarely used.

    Generally works that do not require any of the above are fairly minor works but can include standalone building such as sheds, garden rooms, summer houses etc… For building regulations this is limited to building up to 8m sq but as soon as this is used as a dwelling the building regulations apply regardless.

    It is also worth noting that the planning and building regulation process in Scotland are quite different than in England.

    You can apply for a building warrant in retrospect which may be the simplest solution.

    Thanks for using Do I Need Permission.

  2. Matthew HiltonMatthew Hilton11-23-2015


    I wonder if you are getting slightly confused over this matter. The Planning process and Building Warrant process are entirely separate entities, both of which are administered by the Local Authorities (with most LA’s running the two from the same section).

    The ‘Certificate of Lawfulness’ is purely related to the planning legislation and states that under planning law you are exempt from the Council taking PLANNING enforcement action, because a use has occurred for more than 4 years (in your instance – it can be 10 years in other).

    However, this does not exempt you from complying with the Scottish Building Regulations, which are a set of standards which have been established to ensure the building is robust enough to with stand the weather, provides adequate accommodation, safe to live in and is energy efficient. I am not aware of any time limit whereby you would are deemed to have complied/no longer needing too.

    However, it is common in existing properties, if someone has done some work which required a building warrant they can apply for a ‘letter of comfort’ to show the work was up to standard – this might be approach you could take, but further research would be required.

    It should be noted that providing you comply with the standards a warrant can not be refused!

    Happy to provide further information if required.

  3. cbcb11-27-2015


    Thank you both so much for your replies. It does help to clarify matters…

    I suppose now my concern would be – how exacting are the building regulations officers required to be in their interpretation of the building regulations? Legally are they allowed discretion and/or variation in how they interpret and/or enforce the building regulations?

    If the the building is wind, waterproof, well insulated, structurally sound etc. to a ‘common sense ‘ degree is that sufficient or are there very detailed requirements that will inevitably have to be met?

    Specifically for example the building is off grid and doesn’t have any electrical wiring..

    Reading guidance from the borders council it says in relation to the building regs act “It should be noted that enforcement is a discretionary power. This means that, even where an offence has taken place, the Council has to consider if it is appropriate to take enforcement action. The Council is not required to take any particular action in relation to a specific offence
    and, indeed, can decide that no action is necessary”.

    Thanks again for any time spent with this.

    All the best, cb

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