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Homeowners spend £6bn on unauthorised building works

Press release: 18/02/2013

  • Builders and surveyors say one in ten homes they've seen in the past five years contravene current building regulations
  • 176,000 homeowners have been ordered to rectify building work that failed planning or building rules in the past five years [1]
  • One in five retrospective planning applications are turned down by councils, according to freedom of information request data

Homeowners have shelled out more than £6 billion [2] on home improvements that contravene current building or planning regulations in the past five years.

In the current economic climate many homeowners are choosing to extend or improve their homes rather than move, yet thousands are taking on building projects without any understanding of the regulations involved. According to research by LV= home insurance among builders and surveyors, one in ten (10%) homes they've seen in the past five years breach current building regulations, including extensions, loft conversions and the removal of walls.

Confusion surrounding the official guidelines on home improvements has been further exacerbated by recent proposals [3] to relax planning rules. In September 2012, the government announced proposals to allow homeowners to extend their homes by eight metres for a detached home and six metres for others without seeking planning permission.

While this is good news for many, it is causing confusion for some homeowners who may be planning to extend their homes. Over a third (35%) of homeowners who are aware of the proposals think they have already come into effect and underestimate the planning rules involved in extending a home. In fact a fifth of those who have carried out major building work since the proposals were announced wrongly believe that they have already come into effect, which means that they may have to pay out again to have work reversed if it fails to get planning permission.

Local authorities are responsible for enforcing building regulations and planning rules and have the power to insist homeowners reverse any building work that does not comply. Over 176,000 homeowners have been ordered by council officials to take down or rectify building work carried out on their properties in the past five years, leaving them considerably out of pocket.

Some homeowners have been caught out by mistakenly believing it would be easier to obtain planning permission after they have carried out work rather than before. According to official figures obtained via a freedom of information request by LV= home insurance, almost a fifth of applications for retrospective planning permission made since 2008 were turned down [4], and therefore have had to be reversed by the homeowner.

Converting or extending a home can affect the insurance on a property, yet almost half (47%) of homeowners who have carried out building work in the last five years admit they did not tell their insurer. Insurers calculate the potential risk of a home according to its size and the number of rooms, as well as other factors. Making substantial changes to a property or leaving it unoccupied for long periods of time while building work is being carried out can invalidate its insurance cover.

John O'Roarke, Managing Director of LV= home insurance, comments: "Many homeowners are choosing to improve or extend their homes as they are unable to move or choose not to, but have little understanding of the 'red tape' involved with building work. Breaching building regulations or planning rules can lead to hefty fines or an order to reverse any offending work. Those intending to make substantial changes to a property should consult their local authority for advice on the rules and inform their insurer of their plans to ensure they have adequate cover in place should the worst happen."

Building work that most commonly breaches current building regulations or would fail planning rules, according to builders

Building work

% of builders that have seen a breach relating to this type of building work

An extension

26%

A loft conversion

20%

A wall removed to make open plan

14%

A fireplace or chimney removed

14%

A garage that has been converted to a bedroom

12%

Doors of windows that have been replaced

10%

A conservatory

8%

A cellar or basement turned into a habitable space

3.6%

Drainage

3%

Renovation of whole house

2%

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Notes

The research was conducted by PCP research. PCP ran an omnibus of 2,398 people and a bespoke sample of 509 homeowners that have had major building work carried out on their home in the past five years. In addition, PCP questioned 250 builders and 250 surveyors.

An FOI request was sent to all 434 county district, borough and city councils in the UK, asking how many retrospective planning applications they've received since 2008 and how many of these were refused. 70 responded with at least one piece of data requested.

About LV=

LV= employs 5,500 people and serves over five million customers with a range of financial products. We are the UK's largest friendly society and a leading financial mutual.

When we started in 1843 our goal was to give financial security to more than just a privileged few and for many decades we were most commonly associated with providing a method of saving to people of modest means. Today we follow a similar purpose, helping people to protect and provide for the things they love, although on a much larger scale and through a wide range of financial services including insurance, investment and retirement products.

We offer our services direct to consumers, as well as through IFAs and brokers, and through strategic partnerships with organisations such as ASDA, Nationwide Building Society and a range of trades unions.

LVFS is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority, register number 110035. LVFS is a member of the ABI, the AFM and ILAG. Registered address: County Gates, Bournemouth BH1 2NF

  1. Source: PCP research. 4.1% of homeowners who have had major building works in the last five years had to take down or rectify work, of which 42% were ordered to do so by the council. 10,264,211 relates to the population who have done major work in the last five years. 4.1% of 10,264,211 is 420,834. 42% of 420,834 = 176,750.
  2. Source: PCP research. According to the sample of homeowners who have carried out major works/alterations on their homes in the past five years, the average spend on this type of work is £11,628.44. According to the research, 21.2% of GB adults are homeowners who have carried out major building works to their homes in the past five years, equating to 10,264,211 or an estimated 5,402,216 homes. Builders/surveyors report 10.4% of homes contravene building regulations, which is 561,830 homes. Therefore £11,628.44 x 561,830 homes equates to £6,533,206,445.
  3. Source: www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19504634
  4. Source: FOI request. The councils that replied with the data requested received 10,980 retrospective planning applications in the past five years, of which 1,844 were turned down (equating to 17%).