4/10 Year Planning Approval for flats?

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    4/10 Year Planning Approval for flats?

    Hey everyone,

    My question is if a residential unit has been split into flats (unofficially/without planning consent) and they are self contained with individual entrances off a communal hallway is the 4 or 10 year rule applicable? ie Does this mean after 4/10 provable years then you can apply for a certificate of lawfulness (and subsequently separate the units with individual leases so they can be sold individually)? If so is it 4 or 10 years that you have to wait and what is generally considered acceptable proof that the work has been carried out?

    To let you know the background (which you don't have to read if you don't want!) I am looking at buying a 3 storey building in Hackney, London (after the flat i was trying to buy fell through ). It used to be one big house, then about 10 years ago planning was granted for use of the ground floor as a clinic (and the upstairs residential). It's a very thin building and there's only one entrance door, which leads to a corridor with one door going off into the clinic and one door at the bottom of the stairs up to the residential. 2 to 3 years ago the upstairs was unofficially converted into 2 x 1 bedroom flats (1 on each floor).

    It's quite a main road and there are a lot of commercial units, however on the stretch that this is on the buildings either side are fully residential (and on one side there are about 10 continuous residential buildings down the street). Ideally i would like to convert this into 3 flats as it makes little point having it as commercial (there's lots of vacant shops on that road, it's surrounded by resi, there's a demand for low cost housing, the shared commercial/residential communal area is very strange, it used to be residential etc).

    I went to see the duty planners yesterday and they were even more unhelpful than usual and said I couldn't get any indiciation of whether this might be accepted or not. They said even a preplanning app wouldn't give me any indication and the only way to get any idea is to submit a full planning app. I asked for general guidelines and policies on the area (is there a need for retail/housing/too much retail/commercial etc) and she said there is none and it's all done on a case by case basis.

    I am in the process of trying to ascertain more information from other sources and would ideally like to change the commercial unit into a flat as well but i'm wondering if the 4 year rule applies to the upstairs units because if so it may be worth just waiting a year and then applying for a certificate of lawfullness.

    I would greatly appreciate any information/advice anyone can give me on this as the planners have been as unhelpful as they could possibly have been and whilst i'm not a fan of doing things this way round I need to know what options I have (as i won't be able to get a guarantee one way or the other in time to make an offer anyway).

    Thanks so much,

    Dave

    #2
    To answer your 1st para - what 4 or 10 ten rule? - never heard of it and the building is unlikely to comply with current fire or building regulations.

    Is the rest of the post about the same site? No wonder planners gave you bad vibes.



    Freedom at the point of zero............

    Comment


      #3
      Originally posted by Interlaken View Post
      To answer your 1st para - what 4 or 10 ten rule? - never heard of it and the building is unlikely to comply with current fire or building regulations.

      Is the rest of the post about the same site? No wonder planners gave you bad vibes.
      Hi Interlaken,

      If you do a search on google for 'planning 4 year rule' (or indeed on landlordzone and see threads such as http://www.landlordzone.co.uk/forums...read.php?31952) then you can see what i mean by the 4 year rule (the time planning has to enforce unapproved alterations). My understanding was this is a pretty common statute?

      The rest of my post is also about the same site, but I don't understand why that would mean the planners would give me bad vibes, i was just speaking to them about the planning situation with legally converting this building into flats, they just wouldn't give me any information hence why i'm looking at possible alternatives? In fact the duty planner i spoke to was the one who brought up the 4 year rule (in reference to a small roof extension that was added about 11 years ago, she said if we can prove it's been there for more than 4 years then they can't force its removal and we can apply for a certificate of lawfulness)?

      My apologies if i've got this totally wrong but i'm now rather confused what all the other references to the 4 / 10 year rule are and what the planner was talking about?

      Thanks so much for your help,

      Dave

      Comment


        #4
        Regardless of the current configuration you'll need to apply for Planning Consent for change of use of the Ground Floor. If this is granted then the conversion works will need to at least meet the minimum standards as laid out in the current Building Regulations.

        The lack of statutory consents for previous conversion works would suggest that the property has been poorly converted into flats on the upper levels and the expression 'can of worms' springs to mind in trying to gain compliance.

        Sounds like you need to get some formal advice from a Professional. Internet forums are not a substitute for due diligence.
        There is always scope for misinterpretation.

        If my posts can be interpreted in two ways, one that makes you feel angry and one that doesn't, I meant the latter.

        Everyday is an opportunity to learn something new.

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by mk1fan View Post
          Regardless of the current configuration you'll need to apply for Planning Consent for change of use of the Ground Floor. If this is granted then the conversion works will need to at least meet the minimum standards as laid out in the current Building Regulations.

          The lack of statutory consents for previous conversion works would suggest that the property has been poorly converted into flats on the upper levels and the expression 'can of worms' springs to mind in trying to gain compliance.

          Sounds like you need to get some formal advice from a Professional. Internet forums are not a substitute for due diligence.
          Thanks for your advice and I appreciate the need for change of use consent from the planners for the ground floor (and that the work upstairs is rather shoddy and we need to be careful about this). I will of course instruct the help of a surveyor (and no doubt some others!) I was really just trying to establish if the 4 / 10 year rule was applicable to the flats upstairs and whether this could be used to force them to become legal after a period of time? My understanding after further research is that this would fall under the 10 year rule and after 10 years they can't force you to change it back then you can apply for a certificate of lawfulness (after completing whatever remedial works are required to make the flats meet current regs)?

          Thanks so much,

          Dave

          Comment


            #6
            You need to be clear about the difference between planning permission and building control.

            Certificates of Lawful Existing Use are planning instruments - if granted they do not indicate whether building regs have been complied with.

            As far as I understand, the "4 year" rule applies to residential property, and the "10 year rule" is used for other types. Clearly the ground floor, ex-clinic, would be subject to the latter.

            Ground floor, if to be used as a dwelling, is clearly going to have to comply with current building regs, including fire spread between it and the rest of the building. Do you think the two upper units would comply with building regs appropriate to the time the conversion from one to two units was made?

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Sad S View Post
              You need to be clear about the difference between planning permission and building control.

              Certificates of Lawful Existing Use are planning instruments - if granted they do not indicate whether building regs have been complied with.

              As far as I understand, the "4 year" rule applies to residential property, and the "10 year rule" is used for other types. Clearly the ground floor, ex-clinic, would be subject to the latter.

              Ground floor, if to be used as a dwelling, is clearly going to have to comply with current building regs, including fire spread between it and the rest of the building. Do you think the two upper units would comply with building regs appropriate to the time the conversion from one to two units was made?
              Thanks for your reply Sad S, i just assumed Certificate of lawfulness would include building regs, thanks for setting me straight. I appreciate the conversion/fire/building regs needs (and the 10 year rule) for the commercial unit that makes perfect sense.

              In terms of the flats upstairs I suspect they did not comply fully with building regs at the time they were built due to some of the stairs being slightly uneven, the fact i don't think there are fire doors in all relevant places and a couple of other items. Are you saying that because it's residential to residential (albeit 1 unit to 2) then it would come under the 4 year rule rather than 10, as i've been told by others that because it's into more than one dwelling it's 10 years. And what effect would it have if the work was not completed to building regs, would we be still able to get a certificate of lawfulness then do remedial work to make it legal?

              Thanks so much for your help, it really is massively appreciated.

              Dave

              Comment


                #8
                To confirm what was said said previously about the planning situation, which is separate from building control regulations, The Town and Country Planning Act deals with the converted flats as requiring 4 years use as single dwellings, after which they can no longer be enforced against and therefore become lawful in planning terms.

                Building Regulations is another Parliamentary procedure with its own system of enforcement, so it is important not to confuse the two.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Thanks for your reply pilman, so just to confirm that after 4 years (not 10) the two flats can no longer be enforced against and we can apply for a certificate of lawfulness to make them legal? Assuming this was acquired does this mean we would then definitely be able to split the deeds (and sell off one of the flats/leases) or might they allow them to be 2 flats in one building but refuse the right to split the deeds?

                  Thanks so much for your help,

                  Dave

                  Comment


                    #10
                    This is how the Government phrased the time for enforcement action with section2 applicable to separate flats.
                    171B Time limits.
                    (1)Where there has been a breach of planning control consisting in the carrying out without planning permission of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, no enforcement action may be taken after the end of the period of four years beginning with the date on which the operations were substantially completed.
                    (2)Where there has been a breach of planning control consisting in the change of use of any building to use as a single dwellinghouse, no enforcement action may be taken after the end of the period of four years beginning with the date of the breach.
                    (3)In the case of any other breach of planning control, no enforcement action may be taken after the end of the period of ten years beginning with the date of the breach.
                    If someone wanted to buy the lease on one of the flats then the building control approvals may also be of concern to a mortgagee, even though the flats planning status was resolved.

                    If you own the freehold house, then selling separate leases is possible after 4 years with a Lawful Use Certificate, it's just whether a lender sees them as good security without building control clearance.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by pilman View Post
                      This is how the Government phrased the time for enforcement action with section2 applicable to separate flats.


                      If someone wanted to buy the lease on one of the flats then the building control approvals may also be of concern to a mortgagee, even though the flats planning status was resolved.

                      If you own the freehold house, then selling separate leases is possible after 4 years with a Lawful Use Certificate, it's just whether a lender sees them as good security without building control clearance.
                      Hey Pilman,

                      Thanks so much for the clarification, that's extremely useful. We would of course want it to comply with building regs, so my intention would be (after receiving a certificate of lawfulness) that we would then propose whatever changes were required to bring it to building regs standards. Presumably these changes would be very unlikely to be refused as we would be trying to make everything comply, or could we end up in a situation where it didn't comply with building regs but the planners wouldn't give consent for the alterations to bring it up to standard unless we removed both flats?

                      Secondly i'm slightly confused by the following wording: "change of use of any building to use as a single dwellinghouse", as this is obviously a change to multiple dwellinghouses? Does this mean this conversion would fall within the first part ("breach of planning control consisting in the carrying out without planning permission of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land")? I find this part rather confusing as it seems so all inclusive that I can't quite see what would fall under part 3 (10 years), as surely all things that require planning involve building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land?

                      Thank you so, so much for your help, it really is massively appreciated.

                      Dave

                      Comment


                        #12
                        You still haven't grasped that Planning and Building Control are two totally different departments and neither have any interest in the others objectives.

                        'Change of Use' is a Planning term. The property is currently sub-divided. One section is 'classed' for a Commercial 'use'. The other is classed as Residential. You need to apply for Planning Consent to change this class use of one section from Commercial to Residential.

                        This is a different Planning matter to that concerning the upper storey flats. The conversion of which, it appears, may be allowed under the 4-year rule.

                        On top of these matters is conforming with the Building Reguations. This is completely separate from Planning. The two are not linked and have no interest in each other.

                        Assuming that no Building Regulation Submission was made for the conversion works of the upper flats then you'll need to comply with the current Building Regulations. This is likely to mean substantial stripping out and alteration.

                        I would suggest you approach a local, small practice Chartered Building Surveyor or Architect and talk through the project. Please don't take this the wrong way, the technicalities of this project are clearly beyond you and you need some formal advice from a competant person who has 'all the facts'. A forum is not the place for that.
                        There is always scope for misinterpretation.

                        If my posts can be interpreted in two ways, one that makes you feel angry and one that doesn't, I meant the latter.

                        Everyday is an opportunity to learn something new.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          That last posting is offering good sensible advice as building control requirements include soundproofing to keep noise pollution from each of the converted flats.

                          To clarify the planning matter, each flat is now a single dwelling as the original flat has been separated in the way you described.
                          One large flat has now been converted to two single dwellings.
                          After 4 years that is why each separate dwelling is exempt from planning enforcement, which is the responsibility of the Local Planning Authority, while the building regulations are supervised by the local council's building control surveyors who are not planning officers, but qualified in their own right to supervise current building regulations as drafted by central government.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Correct me if I'm wrong but if the separate units can be proven to have been in existence for at least 4 years then not only should this be considered as L.Development and exempt from enforcement action but current day building regs cannot be enforced either after such a time.
                            There could be a scenario where works were carried out under a building notice lets say 10 years ago and complied with the building regs of the time yet were never signed off....of course certification wouldn't be forthcoming unless current day standards were met.
                            This could be a problem for lending purposes but I understood this could be got over by having an insurance indemnity policy in place which can be arranged by a solicitor.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              If no Building Regs submission has been made for the works then the current Regs would apply if Regularisation action was taken. If a submission was made but never signed off then the regs at the time of submission would apply.

                              Whether Building Control would take action would depend on the standard of the conversion works and the danger to the public including occupants. It really is down to the discretion of the Building Control Department.
                              There is always scope for misinterpretation.

                              If my posts can be interpreted in two ways, one that makes you feel angry and one that doesn't, I meant the latter.

                              Everyday is an opportunity to learn something new.

                              Comment

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