Home renovations: understanding the legal framework

Before you even start on the design process of your renovation, knowing your rights is vital. Understanding the legal framework to protect yourself and your tradespeople, designers and neighbours can help make the whole project run more efficiently.

There are countless building codes and permits, and reputable tradespeople and designers will help you navigate some of these. However, it’s good to do your homework first. Look up your rights for everything – from what you can expect your tradespeople to do to building regulations and even the consumer-protection laws you may need to weave into a contract.

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Home renovations: Know your rights

At the start of the process, knowledge is power. Having the correct information allows you to have the necessary tools if something goes wrong. For example, disputes over the quality of the job or the price are easier to resolve once you have references plus physical receipts and contracts.

Knowing your rights is step one. Step two is understanding the bigger picture – what tradespeople and designers expect from you, and what they can and can’t do. The legal framework and the importance of permits can lead to informed decision-making and safeguarding your investment.

And, remember to be proactive in every project. This can help if you experience disputes around craftsmanship, time frames or costs appear further down the line. “If a dispute arises between the customer and contractor over something like inadequate products or shoddy workmanship, the customer has the right to be signposted to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) provider under the Consumer Rights Act of 2015,” says Ciaran Harkin, managing director at Dispute Assist. “This provider can work with both parties to ensure a fair resolution is achieved. They may rule that further works are required for the contractor to fulfil the brief, or that new products need to be installed.”

Pro tip: Citizens Advice is a good port of call if you feel your rights have been infringed upon by a tradesperson or company. They can report them to Trading Standards on your behalf. Having that neutral entity can help give you some peace of mind. It is also essential to distinguish between your legal rights and what you think is right. This will make your renovation process more manageable from start to finish.

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Building regulations for home renovations

The UK is notoriously stringent when it comes to building regulations. Some regulations may affect how your home is designed. For example, ventilation and water efficiency are high on the list, while fire safety is vital and may affect the type of doors you need to install. Some of these worries will be for your designer to consider, but it is good to understand the logic behind them.

There are two main types of approval that you might need: the first is building regulation approval for internal things like plumbing, electrics, windows and air conditioning. The second is planning permission, which mainly deals with the exterior, including significant changes or new additions to your property. Local authorities oversee these processes, and applications need to be made in good time before work begins.

You may also need a Party Wall Agreement, depending on your property line. This could require a party wall surveyor, to make sure both you and your neighbours are happy with the proposed work before it starts.

The bottom line is you must go through the proper channels to keep the work legal and your rights intact. If the council finds you working without the correct permission, they can halt the work, impose fines or block your construction. Failing to comply can have far-reaching consequences for you as a homeowner.

Click here to find out how to keep records during your home improvement project

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