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Applying for a building warrant in Scotland

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. This page looks at how to apply for a building warrant and how you can ensure your plans conform to building regulations.

How do I get a building warrant?

To get a building warrant, you must apply to your local council's building standards department. For example if the building is in Glasgow you will need to apply to Glasgow City Council. You'll need to fill in an application form and send in copies of your plans. If you're employing an architect, surveyor or builder, they will be able to do this for you.

You can pick up an application form from the offices of the building standards department, or you may be able to download one from your council's website.

If the property you are working on is in a different council area from where you are currently living, you'll need to apply to the building standards department for the council area where the property is located.

What do I need to include in the plans?

The plans you submit should set out:

  • what the work consists of
  • where it will be carried out
  • how it will affect any adjoining or existing buildings.

You may also need to include:

  • room measurements
  • information about the materials and products to be used
  • the position of any appliances to be installed
  • drainage details
  • structural design calculations
  • an energy rating.

It's a good idea to talk to the building standards department first, to find out exactly what you need to supply.

How can I ensure my plans comply with building standards?

In order to comply, the building work you plan to do must result in a property that is:

  • safe, for example, free from fire and electrical hazards
  • hygienic, for example, with adequate drainage and means of disposing of waste
  • healthy, for example capable of being heated adequately, sufficiently well ventilated, and not prone to accumulating radon gas
  • free from obstacles which could prevent the property being used by disabled people, where possible
  • energy efficient.

The building standards are set out in the Scottish Building Standards Agency's domestic and non-domestic technical handbooks, which can be downloaded free of charge at the SBSA website or bought from most major bookshops.

Unless you can carry out the work yourself, you'll need to hire an architect or surveyor to draw up the plans for you. They will be familiar with the building standards and can apply for a warrant and planning permission on your behalf.

When should I apply?

If your project requires a warrant, you must get one before you start work. It is an offence not to do so and you could be fined up to £5,000. You could also run into problems when you submit a completion certificate (see 'what do I do when the work's finished' below), which you'll need to prove that the work has been accepted by the building standards department if you want to sell your home.

Do I have to pay to apply?

Yes, you must pay a fee when you apply for your warrant. The cost of this will depend on the value of the work you're planning. You can see a full list of fees at the SBSA website. If you are disabled and are altering your home to make it more suitable, you won't have to pay a fee.

How long will it take to get my application assessed?

Once you have sent in your application, the building standards department will assess it to see whether it complies with building standards. This should take around four weeks, although this can vary depending on how complicated your project is and how clear your plans are. You should check with the local building standards department for more information.

Your application will be registered on the building standards register, which you can find on your council's website.

How does the assessment process work?

If any part of your application does not comply with buildings standards or requires clarification, the building standards department will ask you to adjust your plans. A surveyor from the department should be able to give you advice on how best to do this. Once the department is satisfied that your plans comply, the warrant will be granted. You should then notify the building standards department when the work begins.

If there's any dispute over whether your plans comply, you and the building standards department can apply to the SBSA to get their view. You'll have to pay a fee for this.

Is there anything I can do to speed up the process?

You may able to speed up the application process if you use an approved certifier.

What is an approved certifier?

An approved certifier is a building professional (for example, an engineer) who has approval to certify that plans or building work comply with building standards. There are two kinds of certifier:

  • an approved certifier of design, who can check specific elements of the design before you submit them to the building standards department, and
  • an approved certifier of construction, who can check specific elements of the building work being carried out

Currently there are two schemes approved by Scottish Ministers:

  • Certification of Design (Building Structures) operated by SER Ltd.
  • Certification of Construction (Electrical installations to BS 7671) operated by SELECT and NICEIC.

What does an approved certifier do?

An approved certifier of design can check your plans before you apply for a building warrant and issue you with certification under the scheme to show that the plans comply. This should speed up the application process, as all the building standards department needs to do on receipt of your application is check the certificate. You'll then get a discount on the warrant fee, although you will have to pay the certifier for issuing the certificate.

When your building project is being carried out, you can ask an approved certifier of construction to issue a certificate to say the work complies with building standards. This should speed up the completion certificate process. In addition, if you let the building standards department know you will be doing this before you start work, you will get a refund when you submit the completion certificate and the certificate of construction.

If I get a building warrant, do I need planning permission too?

A building warrant is not the same as planning permission - the two application processes are separate. If your project requires a building warrant, it may well require planning permission as well.

What if I've already started building work and don't have a warrant?

In this case, you need to rectify the situation as soon as possible by submitting a late application for a warrant. If your plans don't comply with building standards and need to be adjusted, any non-compliant work already carried out will have to be knocked down and redone.

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 at the SBSA website.

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The important points

  • To get a building warrant, you must apply to your council's building standards department.
  • If your project requires a warrant, you must get one before you start work. It is an offence not to do so and you could be fined up to £5,000.
  • You must pay a fee when you apply for your warrant. The cost of this will depend on the value of the work you're planning.
  • After applying, the building standards department will assess it to see whether it complies with building standards. This should take around four weeks.

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