Before starting building work

This page lists the processes you should go through before carrying out repairs, alterations or improvements to your home. Before you start work, you need to be sure that you have all the relevant permissions and that there are no other restrictions in place.

Check the title deeds to your home

If you are planning on carrying out any kind of building work to your home (for example, adding an extension, converting the loft into a bedroom or removing walls), you should first check the title deeds, to make sure this kind of work is permitted. If you have a mortgage, your lender should hold the deeds to your home. Otherwise, your solicitor may have them, or you may have them stored in a safe place elsewhere.

Make sure there are no other restrictions

You'll also need to check whether there are any other restrictions that might prevent you carrying out the work. For example:

  • Is your home a listed building? If so, you may well need listed building consent.

  • Do you live in a conservation area? Planning permission requirements are usually more restrictive in areas of special historic or architectural interest.

  • Will the work require you to chop down, uproot or cut back any trees? If so, check that the trees in question aren't protected by a tree preservation order.

  • Is there a right of way across the land you want to build on? Ask your local council about this. If this is the case, you can apply to have the right of way amended, although this can be a lengthy and difficult process.

Notify your mortgage lender

The terms of your mortgage may require you to notify your lender before making any major alterations to your home. Check your mortgage deeds or speak to your lender to make sure.

Get professional advice

Unless you are able to carry out the work yourself, you will probably need to employ an architect, surveyor or building engineer. They will be able to:

  • draw up detailed plans for the work required

  • make applications for the necessary permits and warrants

  • help you find the right builder for the job

  • supervise the building work for you.

You can find an architect at the website of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) and a surveyor at the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) website.

Talk to your neighbours

Part of the planning application process involves notifying your neighbours of your proposed plans. It's best to approach them informally in the first place, to find out whether they are likely to object. Even if your project doesn't require planning permission, it's a good idea to consult your neighbours if you think the work may affect them.

Apply for planning permission

You may need planning permission to carry out the work. If this is the case, you won't be able to start work until this is granted. Speak to your local planning authority first - you can find contact details at your council's website. They will be able to tell you whether the work needs planning permission and if so, whether it is likely to be granted. Bear in mind that the planning application process can be quite slow - once you have submitted your application, it can take up to two months to get a decision.

Apply for a building warrant

Even if you don't need planning permission, you may need a building warrant from the council's building standards department. If a warrant is required, you won't be able to start work without one, so get in touch with the building standards department as soon as possible.

Find a builder

You will also need to hire a builder. Read the page on finding a builder for some helpful tips.

Contact your insurer

Altering your home may affect your buildings insurance. Contact your insurer to find out.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 29 December 2014

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

Get advice if you're in England