5 legal quirks you should know about before extending your home
An extension is perhaps the largest type of improvement most homeowners ever carry out on their homes. They have a reputation of being stressful and longwinded to carry out – although, this need not be the case! The really great thing about extending your home is that it gives you the opportunity to alter your home entirely in a way that is bespoke to your tastes and requirements.
The laws and regulations surrounding home extensions, however are not always the clearest or easiest things to understand. At Opun we like to take all of the pain out of home improvement, which is why we’re more than happy to take care of all the red tape for you, but here’s a few things you might like to know anyway when it comes to the quirks surrounding home extensions.
There’s such a thing as a ‘right to light’
One of the key things which homeowners contemplating an extension aren’t aware of is that their neighbours may be able to block some of their plans if the development is deemed that it would affect a neighbour's right to light.
A right to light is acquired to a neighbour who has “had uninterrupted use of something over someone else’s land for 20 years without consent, openly and without threat, and without interruption for more than a year.”
A neighbour, with a right to light claim could override any planning permission you’ve already had approved. However, the good news is that the right to light rule does not mean that your development cannot obstruct a neighbour’s view, or even their actual window. It's only there to prevent you blocking so much light that your neighbour’s home now has less natural light than is ‘reasonable required for use’ of the building.
The trees around your home could be protected
Local Planning Authorities have the ability to protect specific trees or all the trees within a specific area. These are called Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) and protects any tree with a TPO from any deliberate: lopping, topping, uprooting or any other kind of wilful damage without the permission of the Local Planning Authority, therefore even if the tree is planted on your land, a TPO could prevent you from carrying out building developments if it would require the damage or destruction of a protected tree.
If you’re home is located within a Conversation Area you may also find that all trees with a trunk diameter greater than 75 mm have a in effect de facto TPO on them.
None of this means that you cannot develop your home, but you will need to apply for permission to carry out any works on these plants.
Planning Permission is not always needed
In some cases a single storey extension may not require planning permission to be legally carried out. Conservatories, single storey and even in some cases two storey extensions can all be built under what’s known as ‘Permitted Development’ rights.
There are specific requirements on how big and where Permitted Development extensions can be, as well as that the materials used are of ‘similar appearance’ to the rest of the property. Find out more about permitted development here.
Listed buildings can be extended
If you own a listed building you may find getting approval to make alterations to it more difficult. No matter if the changes you want to make would normally fall under the remit of Permitted Development, with a listed building you will need to apply for both Planning Permission as well as Listed Building Consent. However, this does not mean alterations are out of the question. Historic England states on their website that “Listed buildings can be altered, extended and sometimes even demolished within government planning guidance”. Even extremely contemporary looking extensions can sometimes be added. Subject to approval, to find out more about the changes you may be able to make to a listed building click here.
The Party Wall act
The party wall refers to the shared boundary between your property and your neighbour’s. This most obviously refers then to the shared wall in a semidetached property, however party walls can also be considered things such as garden walls, but not wooden fences.
You can carry out works both near and on party walls, but you must notify your neighbour of this, usually between two months and a year before work commences, including a plan of what you’re doing.
Your neighbour can then either give their consent for you to have work carried out either near or physically on the party wall (even if it requires access to their land). If consent is refused you will need to start a ‘dispute resolution process’ or serve you a country notice in which they request that other additional works be carried out on the wall at the same time, in this case they would need to pay for these additional works if it is to their benefit.