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About building regulations

This page explains what building regulations and building warrants are, and what kind of work requires a warrant.

What are building regulations?

Building regulations are set by the Scottish Ministers to ensure that all building work produces safe, structurally sound, healthy, accessible and energy efficient buildings. The regulations set out functions which the completed building must fulfil or allow.

What is a building warrant?

A building warrant is legal permission to carry out building work. In order to get a warrant, the work you're planning to do must conform to building regulations. Building warrants are granted by the council's building standards or building control department - you can find contact details on the Scottish Government - Building Standards webpage, and on your council's website.

What kind of work requires a building warrant?

You'll normally need to get a building warrant if you want to:

  • carry out certain internal alterations
  • extend your home
  • build a new home
  • convert your home or change how you use it - for example, by converting a loft or garage into living space or dividing a large home into two smaller houses or flats
  • convert another building, such as a barn, shop or office, into a home
  • demolish a building.

What about internal alterations to a house?

Work to or in a house does not always require a warrant, but it must comply with the building standards. However, if internal alterations change the structure of your home, you will need a warrant. For example, a warrant is required for:

  • work that increases the floor area
  • demolition or alteration of the roof, external walls or other structural elements
  • building or removing load bearing internal walls
  • any change in the waste water disposal system (for example, changing from using a public sewer to a septic tank or vice versa)
  • work to a house having a storey, or creating a storey, at a height or more than 4.5m.

What about conversions?

If you are changing the way you use an area of your home, for example, if you want to convert an attached garage into a sitting room, you will need a warrant. If you are carrying out building work, such as knocking down a load bearing wall, you will need a warrant to ensure the work complies with regulations. However, you will also need a warrant even if you won't be doing any actual building work. For example, if you are converting a shop into a flat you may not need to knock down or build any walls, you may simply redecorate. However, because you are changing the way you use the property, you'll still need a warrant.

Is there any kind of work that doesn't require a warrant?

Work that's exempt from building standards

Some kinds of building and work are exempt from the regulations, for example, a conservatory or porch extension to a house, or a small detached building no larger than 8m² in area. There are other restrictions, for example, the building must be sited at least 1m from the boundary and mustn't contain a boiler or toilet.

Work that doesn't require a warrant

Some building work does not require a warrant, but must comply with the regulations. This includes small detached buildings more that 8m² but less than 30m², and again there are a number of restrictions.

Projects that may not require warrants include:

  • building a small conservatory, porch, greenhouse, summerhouse, carport, garage or garden shed (however, this will depend on the size of the building and where it is sited)
  • replacing kitchen or bathroom fittings
  • installing a stairlift
  • insulating your home (although this excludes insulation added to the outer surface of an external wall)
  • putting up a fence less than 2m high or building a wall less than 1.2m high
  • decking an area of your garden that does not form part of the accessible entrance, or paving
  • replacing a waste pipe, gutter, ventilation fan, chimney or heating appliance
  • applying rendering or cladding to the external walls of your home
  • replacing floorings or other fittings in your home.

Where can I find out more?

You can find a detailed list of building work which is exempt from the regulations or doesn't require a warrant at the Scottish Government Building Standards webpage (in the frequently asked questions section and in the technical handbook). If you're at all unsure about whether or not you need a warrant, you should check with the council's building standards department before starting work.

Things to remember

  • Building work you carry out (unless exempt) must conform to building standards, even if you don't need a warrant.
  • Work that doesn't require a building warrant may still need planning permission.
  • Work cannot commence until a warrant has been obtained.

What if I do the work without a warrant?

If you carry out work which requires a warrant without obtaining one, the council can send you a building warrant enforcement notice ordering you to apply for a warrant. The notice will give you a deadline by which time you must get a warrant, and may require you to stop work until then. If you don't, you'll be guilty of an offence, and the council may be able to tear your building work down, then charge you any expenses.

If you don't think you require a warrant, you can appeal to sheriff court within 21 days of receiving the notice. You'll probably need a solicitor to help you with this. However, if you're unhappy about a notice, it's best to contact the council first, as you may be able to sort things out without having to go to court.

The former Scottish Building Standards Agency was disbanded on April 1, 2008 and its functions to administer the Building Standards system in Scotland were transferred back to the Scottish Government.

Where can I get help and advice?

Staff at the council's building standards department will be able to help you with your application, so it's a good idea to go in and talk to them first. They can:

  • tell you whether your project needs a building warrant
  • give you guidance on complying with building standards
  • possibly offer advice on hiring an architect, surveyor or builder.

Further information, including guidance, legislation, technical handbooks, fees, forms and certification are available from Scottish Government Building Standards.

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The important points

  • Building regulations are set by the Scottish Ministers to ensure that all building work produces safe, structurally sound, healthy, accessible and energy efficient buildings.
  • A building warrant is legal permission to carry out building work.
  • Work to or in a house does not always require a warrant, but it must comply with the building standards.
  • If you are changing the way you use an area of your home, you will need a warrant.

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