Beware of illegal Outbuildings….

An outbuilding can be described as any building on the property but not connected to the main building. This could be a shed, a free standing garage or building annexe. These are often built at the rear of a property and then converted for some form of habitation or recreational purposes.

Most commonly outbuildings are originally built as garden rooms, garages or workshops. When converted illegally they are:

  • Often substandard accommodation with associated health and safety risks such as poor wiring or lack of plumbing.
  • No planning permission or approval under housing regulations.
  • Often intrusive on the original property with no design consideration to the site or local architecture.
  • Create a greater strain on local services, as the streets are not designed for so many residents.

A building is shutterstock_216424408 copydeemed as an illegal habitation if it does not conform to the requirements and regulations set out by the local council that can be ascertained through inspection. The structure is often permitted as an outbuilding providing the property is not listed or in a conservation area. However the use must not be for residential or for the use as a self contained dwelling.

Councils can identify illegal dwellings through the use of aerial photography and local street surveys. Where upon any house or property thought to be with an illegal outhouse will be visited during the course of the inspection for the council to make their judgement. There are also many cases where residents of neighbouring properties have reported the illegal use to the council.

If the council are contacted or discover the property is being used illegally, they will state the use must be put to an end or the owner will have to submit for a planning application for the planning departments consideration. If the application is refused the use of the outbuilding as a self-contained unit will need to end, if not appropriate action will be taken and enforced by the council such as prosecution and enforcement.

If a detached outbuilding meets the below requirements, then it does not require any planning permission:

  • Used for normal residential activities associated with the main house (not as a self-contained dwelling for example an office or studio).
  • Combined with other extensions, does not cover more than half the garden.
  • Single storey.
  • If it has a dual (symmetrically) pitched roof, is less than 4 metres high.
  • If it has a flat or other pitched roof, is less than 3 metres.
  • It is within 2 metres of any boundary the maximum height is 2.5 metres.
  • The eaves are a maximum of 2.5 metres high.
  • Was built more than 4 years ago.

Any outbuilding that does not match the above criteria will be deemed as illegal and without the correct planning permission. In which case further action may be taken against the owner.

Outbuildings can be converted with the correct permission and criteria:

  • Granny Flat.
  • It must not have a separate entrance or staircase, it must be connected to the main house and not include its own kitchen.
  • Garage conversion.
  • This may require permission depending on the original permissions granted for the build. If an original condition was attached then it will require planning permission.
  • Where a breach of planning law has taken place planning enforcement action must be started within specified time frames.

In respect of building works and for changing the use of a building to use as a dwelling enforcement action can only be taken within four years of the original alleged breach.

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