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27 Aug 2021

Why you need a completion certificate? – Ask Anna Question of the Week

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Dear Anna

What is a completion certificate and why do I need it for building work in my house?

A completion certificate is your proof that building work has been inspected by building control and is safe. You need to keep it in a safe place as you’ll need it if you ever sell or remortgage your home.

When building work has been inspected by suitably competent building control surveyors, with a completion certificate issued at the end, it means that as far as the surveyor is able to ascertain, the work done has complied with the building regulations in place at the time the work was carried out. When building control surveyors carry out inspections on your property, depending on your project they'll assess things like:

• foundations
• floors
• roof structure
• structural stability and new beams or lintels
• thermal insulation
• ventilation
• fire protection
• damp proofing
• drainage

(View our Do I need a building regulations application page for further details.)

Please note they will only visit the site periodically (when requested to do so by you or your builder) so won’t see everything. They will check the work at pre-agreed stages to ensure that it appears to comply and issue a completion certificate only if no contraventions are apparent after the final inspection.

Additional work may be costly without building regulations approval

If the council discovers that building work on your property doesn't meet building regulations they could take enforcement action against you within 12 months of the date the work was finished. This will require you to carry out alterations or even remove the work, causing a great deal of disruption, inconvenience, and money. If you don't take the necessary action, the local authority has the power to undertake the work itself and recover the costs from you since you're the property owner.

Properties without a building control certificate sell for less

A house that has had a considerable amount of work done without building regulations approval will sell for less. The absence of a completion certificate can deter buyers because there is an element of uncertainty and fewer guarantees that the building work is safe and meets the standards set in the building regulations.

Completion certificates show up in local authority searches

Local authority searches, also known as local land searches, are conducted by conveyancing solicitors or mortgage lenders and they're an essential part of the home buying and selling process. If you're selling your property the information uncovered in these searches, including missing completion certificates, can be used by buyers to renegotiate your offer. This could lead to a deal falling through – the last thing you want at this stage.

Mortgage lenders need to know the details

If you're looking to take out a mortgage to buy a property, you'll need to let your mortgage lender know if the property has had work done which requires building regulations approval. If there's no completion certificate it introduces an element of risk for the mortgage lender.

Buildings insurance may be invalid without a completion certificate

It's important to remember that if there's no completion certificate for alterations to your property, your insurance company may refuse to pay out and you may have to cover the cost yourself.

Completion certificates for work done before 2013.

Update 20 November 2020. Here's some further information for those in that position: Prior to 2013 there was no requirement for local authorities to issue completion certificates in all cases. Some authorities adopted a procedure to issue completions before this date, but not all, and the earlier the date the less likely it is that completion certificates would be available.
Consequently, it may not be possible to provide a completion certificate for work carried out before 2013. Although there are provisions within the regulations for a local authority to accept applications to regularise work carried out without approval, there is no obligation on a local authority to accept such application. Also, the greater the length of time since work was completed, the less likely this would provide a satisfactory solution.

Conveyancing solicitors have increasingly demanded completion certificates, which was part of the reason for their introduction into regulation in 2013, unfortunately, their demands do not take account when building work was completed. Provision of some form of indemnity policy is often promoted as an alternative, however this is usually only to cover legal action by the local authority for contravention of building regulations. A surveyor’s report indicating the present status of the property in relation to building regulations applicable at the time the work was carried out may be more beneficial to future occupiers.

Peace of mind

All in all, having a completion certificate is essential. As a house buyer, seeing home improvement work accompanied by a completion certificate will give you confidence that building work has complied with building regulations.

When it comes to selling your home, building work that comes with a completion certificate will help make the process less problematic – allowing you to move swiftly on and start a new life elsewhere!

If the work was carried out without an application being made you can still take action to obtain the right paperwork. In this case, providing the work was carried out after November 1985 you can apply for a Regularisation, a retrospective application available from your Local Authority Building Control team. You’ll be asked for plans and calculations to show what was done and the work will be inspected. Please be aware that you may be asked to open up various areas of the building so the surveyor can check things that have been covered up like beams, pipes, and insulation. If everything appears to meet the regulations that were in place at the time the work was carried out, you’ll receive a Regularisation Certificate.

Last week’s Ask Anna Question of the Week article: Regularisation 

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