Adding an extension? Make sure it’s not a folly

PUBLISHED: 09:00 27 June 2016


Want to move in a few years’ time but need a bit more room now? Had another child and need to extend into the loft? Need a den in the garden for your messy teenagers and their friends to get them out of the house? Had a promotion and fancy a home gym or cinema in the basement?

There are many reasons to renovate instead of relocate but, before you get carried away, make sure you do your homework. While the results may enhance your home, if your builder fails to obtain the right planning and building regulation consents for the work undertaken, any plans to sell in the future could crumble into dust.

At best, the lack of building completion certificates could slow down the selling process while you apply for retrospective consents. At worst, you may be forced to make alterations or even to take down any structures that needed planning permission. 

Common mistakes made by eager home improvers:

• Converting a loft without getting building regulation consent – this will not only cause problems on resale but could be very dangerous if the works do not comply!

• Putting up a summer house to use as a home office, den or extra bedroom without planning permission – it might need planning permission if its size exceeds the allowed dimensions.

• Thinking that a small extension such as a porch does not need permission – if previous extensions have used up the permitted development allowance, it might need planning permission as well as building regulation consent.

• Converting a garage into an office without building regulation consent – the room will not count as being habitable and this could affect the value of your home when you sell it.

Five things to do before you extend or build:

• Question your builder or architect closely on exactly what type of consents will be needed.

• Don’t trust a builder who appears vague about whether or not you will need permission and tells you that it won’t be a problem

• Ask your solicitor if permitted development rights were withdrawn at the time of construction.

• Check if your property is in a conservation area or is listed as both of these could make it more difficult to get planning consent.

• Talk to the local planning authority and building control about your plans – they will always be willing to check the planning history of the property.

Be aware of any potential restrictions

To avoid any potential problems with your neighbours, ask your solicitor to find out whether the title to your house has any restrictions or covenants against the building work you want to do:

• Are there any absolute breaches against building what you want?

• If not absolute, would you have to ask a neighbour or someone else for permission?

• Could the restriction be unenforceable, perhaps because the person or company who could enforce it has either died or no longer exists?

It’s always better to pre-empt any situation that could result in your next door neighbour taking legal action against you. 

For legal advice on residential, buy to let and investment property or land law issues, please contact Clare Dove or Raj Sambi in the Guildford office of Penningtons Manches on 01483 791 800 or visit

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