Six key issues to consider when renovating or updating a property

If you currently own a property and want to renovate it, or if you are thinking of buying a property with a view to carrying out redesign and rebuilding works, there are a number of important issues which you should consider carefully.

Not evaluating the legal ramifications of any changes you make to your home and/or the land on which it is situated, could mean that a third party may challenge the alterations at a later date.

Here we look at six key issues for anyone who may be thinking about property building works.

1. Restrictive Covenants

A restrictive covenant may be written into a property’s title deed to stipulate what the owner can or cannot do with the land or property. Restrictions may cover a range of issues but most commonly include the following:

  • Restrictions on how the land or property is to be used (for instance, preventing trade or business use)
  • Restrictions on how the fabric of a building may be altered (for instance, preventing the separation of a large house into smaller units or the erection of extensions)
  • Restrictions on further building on the land (for instance, preventing outbuildings or separate garages)

Some buyers mistakenly believe that restrictive covenants are only relevant to new builds, but they can be found in many older property titles. And, unless the covenant is worded ambiguously or has become historically obsolete, the age of the covenant is irrelevant; so the contents can still be enforced.

If you breach a restrictive covenant (whether unknowingly or not) you could face a legal challenge. This might mean you have to pay a fee (which could run into thousands of pounds) or you may even be forced to reverse the changes (such as pull down an annexe).

So, if you are thinking of buying a property as a renovation project or you wish to make building alterations to your current home, you should check your property documents to ensure no restrictive covenant is in place. If you find that there is a covenant written into the deeds or contractual documents, you should seek legal advice before commencing any building works.

2. Lender Consent

While you don’t need to tell your mortgage lender about work you intend to carry out on your property, it is important that all regulatory and statutory requirements are upheld when you carry out building work, as you may find mortgage lenders won’t lend to prospective buyers if your property could be considered unsafe or unsaleable in the future.

3. Planning

The local authority may need to give its approval for building and renovation work. If your project will ultimately create a new dwelling (for instance if a large house is split into two separate homes) then you will automatically need to seek planning permission.

You are also likely to need planning approval for the following:

  • Large extensions (particularly if they are more than one storey high) .
  • Outbuildings on separate areas of land
  • Building or renovation works in Designated Areas (for instance if you live within a national park or a conservation area).
  • Building or renovation works to listed buildings.
  • Building a home on agricultural land or on any piece of land that is not used for residential purposes.

If you go ahead with a build without receiving the appropriate planning permission, the local planning authority can take action against you.

The presence of restrictive covenants on the land will not prevent planning permission from being granted .You must therefore check that the proposals do not contravene any valid restrictive covenants on the land.

4. Building Regulations

Building regulations approval must not be confused with planning permission approval. Building regulations address the technical design and construction of building work and are put in place to ensure that health and safety standards are upheld.

You will need building regulations approval if you intend to erect a new building or alter an existing building, but there are also a number of more minor renovation work s which will need building regulations approval, such as:

  • Adding radiators into a heating system
  • Replacing a fuse box and electrical connections
  • Replacing doors and windows
  • Installing new bathroom plumbing
  • Removing a load bearing wall

Whatever building or renovation work you intend to carry out, it is important that you make sure the work conforms to building regulations and does not alter the existing fabric, services or fittings in a way which renders them non-compliant.

5. Insurance

Insurance is a specific and important consideration when carrying out building or renovation work because your general home insurance is unlikely to provide cover while work is being carried out. Indeed, your insurance may be completely invalidated if you try to make a claim whether you are carrying out the work yourself or if you have builders doing the work for you.

It’s important to check your home insurance cover even for relatively minor works, such as plumbing in a bathroom or adding a radiator, because if things go wrong you may be left to foot the bill yourself.

You may also need to purchase public liability insurance to provide cover if someone, such as a builder or plasterer, suffers an injury while working on your home. And if you are going to leave the property unoccupied during a period of renovation work, this may also affect your cover.

The general rule is that it is always best to speak to your insurer before embarking on a building or renovation project.

6. Council Tax Band

One last factor to consider relates to adding value to your home. If your building work is likely to increase the asking price on your property then it may affect the council tax band that your property falls into and, ultimately, the amount of council tax you will need to pay in the future.

However, a property undergoing major repairs and renovation work may be exempt for council tax if it is uninhabitable or undergoing structural changes. If your property is left unfurnished or empty you may be eligible for a council tax discount, however this is at the individual council’s discretion.

Legal advice when carrying out building works

The Wellers Law team of solicitors and housing specialists can provide legal advice and guidance on a number of matters relating to residential conveyancing and housing matters; including, buying and selling of freehold and leasehold properties, pre-auction advice, restrictive covenants, planning approval and building regulations approval.

This article was prepared by Jeanette Awadzi in our Chislehurst office. To talk to Jeanette about property issues please call on 020 8295 1989. Or email

For our Wellers Hedleys Surrey office please call Amna Baker on 01372 750100 or email