Hap­py World Archi­tec­ture Day. There are plen­ty of rea­sons why you should con­sid­er buy­ing a prop­er­ty that needs work, repairs, or ren­o­va­tions. From being able to nego­ti­ate on the ask­ing price all the way to hav­ing free reign to com­plete­ly re-design the home and make the space your own, more and more peo­ple are invest­ing in fix­er-uppers”. There are some things you should con­sid­er before start­ing build­ing work on a prop­er­ty, how­ev­er, that could pro­tect you from a legal standpoint.

Per­mis­sion & Approval

When we think of home improve­ments we often think of Plan­ning Per­mis­sion which is usu­al­ly required when build­ing some­thing new or mak­ing major changes such as adding an exten­sion to a prop­er­ty. You may have to con­sid­er more than just Plan­ning Per­mis­sion when mak­ing improve­ments your prop­er­ty, though. For exam­ple, you may need Build­ing Reg­u­la­tions Approval for small­er types of build­ing work such as replac­ing win­dows and doors. Lease­hold­ers will need per­mis­sion from the free­hold­er before they make any changes to the prop­er­ty. Click the fol­low­ing gov​.uk links to check if you need Plan­ning Per­mis­sion or Build­ing Reg­u­la­tions Approval.


No mat­ter what kind of build­ing work you’re doing, it’s vital that you screen con­trac­tors accord­ing­ly. Just because a con­trac­tor has been rec­om­mend­ed by a friend or fam­i­ly mem­ber doesn’t mean they are above-board (and remem­ber, online tes­ti­mo­ni­als are easy to forge). We always rec­om­mend hir­ing con­trac­tors who are in a Com­pe­tent Per­son Scheme as well as reg­is­tered gas engi­neers and elec­tri­cians. Don’t feel shy about ask­ing to see proof of qual­i­fi­ca­tions and make sure you dou­ble check any trade asso­ci­a­tion web­sites that your con­trac­tor says they are a mem­ber of to make sure they are actu­al­ly listed. 


Once you’ve found a suit­able con­trac­tor it’s impor­tant to out­line exact­ly what work needs doing to the prop­er­ty and to get a writ­ten quote for this. A writ­ten quote con­sti­tutes a fixed-price for the work so that you’re not hit with any nasty sur­pris­es. A con­trac­tor can’t charge you more than the quot­ed price unless you ask for addi­tion­al work; they let you know that they have to do addi­tion­al work to com­plete the project and you agree to it; or they dis­cov­er that they made a gen­uine mis­take when cal­cu­lat­ing the price (and can prove this).


We always rec­om­mend con­sid­er­ing insur­ance when car­ry­ing out build­ing work on a prop­er­ty. Your con­trac­tor may have their own set of insur­ance poli­cies so it’s vital you check these and ensure they don’t run out before the work is due to be com­plet­ed oth­er­wise you will not be cov­ered. It’s like­ly that your con­trac­tor will have Pub­lic Lia­bil­i­ty Insur­ance but if they don’t you may want to con­sid­er tak­ing this out your­self to pro­tect against the pos­si­bil­i­ty of some­body being hurt or somebody’s prop­er­ty (e.g. a neighbour’s) being dam­aged dur­ing build­ing work.

Writ­ten Contracts

It is imper­a­tive that you get a writ­ten con­tract before any build­ing work is car­ried out. If you don’t you may still find your­self behold­en to an implied ver­bal con­tract once work has start­ed and this makes resolv­ing dis­putes infi­nite­ly more com­pli­cat­ed. It’s like­ly that your con­trac­tor will pro­vide their own writ­ten con­tract before work starts, so make sure you check that it cov­ers every­thing you’ve agreed to. 

In the unlike­ly event that the con­trac­tor doesn’t pro­vide their own con­tract, you are well with­in your rights to draw up your own. Writ­ten con­tracts need to out­line exact­ly what you’re pay­ing for and every­thing you’ve agreed on with regards to dead­lines, mate­ri­als, pay­ments, and clean-up. Do not work with a con­trac­tor who is unwill­ing to sign a writ­ten contract. 

Now you know exact­ly what to con­sid­er before start­ing build­ing work on a prop­er­ty, you’ll have a much bet­ter idea of whether or not a prop­er­ty that needs work is for you. We here at Jack­son Bar­rett and Gass are con­veyanc­ing spe­cial­ists, ful­ly equipped to offer legal advice, infor­ma­tion, and ser­vices with regards to pur­chas­ing prop­er­ties in need of work, repairs, or ren­o­va­tions. Con­tact us today.