Self-build - plan properly

An MP has just released a report supporting the relaxation of rules relating to self-build projects. It has been put forward as a part of a range of responses to encourage more house building in England and Wales. The report highlights that there are about 13,000 self-build houses built each year, making self and custom housebuilding in the UK collectively equivalent in size to one of the larger national housebuilders.

Some of the recommendations are as follows:

  • Raise awareness of the Right to Build - the Government, working through Homes England in partnership with the custom and self-build industry, should create a custom and self-build housing Show Park and should strengthen existing legislation to mandate the wider publicity of Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Registers and the sharing of key data between willing landowners and people on registers.
  • Support custom and self-build housebuilding through the Planning Reforms.

These are laudable aims but anyone considering building a property on land that they already own or buying a plot of land to build on should take specialist conveyancing advice before they embark on the project.

In a surprising number of cases, a dwelling is built on land which has a covenant (that is, an obligation) on the title prohibiting the building of the dwelling.  Depending on the age of the covenant, this can often be dealt with by using indemnity insurance. However, a fairly frequent scenario is the building of an additional dwelling on a piece of land that was formally owned by the local authority (perhaps a former 'council house'). These tend to be larger plots which are ideal for development but when a council house is sold off, the local authority often imposes a covenant stating that no further dwelling shall be built. Homeowners often think that obtaining planning permission is enough to deal with this issue, but it is not. Planning issues and matters of title are separate.

Any building will need planning permission which will require a formal application to the local authority. Conditions may be attached to the planning permission which can be onerous or expensive to comply with, for example carrying out environmental checks of the land. A surprising number of self-builders also forget to involve the building regulation department of the local authority in the build, and in particular fail to obtain the building regulation completion certificate when the building is finished.

There may also be additional fees to pay to the local authority if the authority has adopted the Community Infrastructure Levy.

There is no doubt that more homes need to be built and any government initiative should be viewed positively. However, there is a significant number of legal points to be dealt with to ensure that any eventual sale of the property goes smoothly.

To discuss this or any property related matter, contact us.