Property developers in England and Wales have a lot to consider when undertaking a construction project.
Whether you’re working on an existing property or starting a brand-new commercial project, there are numerous building regulations you must adhere to if you want to stay legally compliant. Covering everything from structural work, through to fire and electrical safety, toxicity, ventilation, and drainage, their purpose is to ensure health and safety standards are obeyed and work is of a consistently high standard.
To help developers remain compliant, the UK government has organised these vital regulations into a comprehensive code of ‘Approved Documents’. Yet for property developers with a vast portfolio, complying with building regulations (in addition to ISO standards) can be a real challenge.
Here are three useful tips to protect you from the legal headaches that accompany non-compliance.
3 Top Tips for Remaining Compliant
1. Familiarise Yourself with Building Regulations
The first step on the road to compliance in construction is to familiarise yourself with existing regulations. This helps you understand what’s expected of you at each stage of the project.
It’s not necessary to commit every article of every approval document and relevant ISO standard to memory. Given the sheer breadth of information, this would be impossible. Nevertheless, it pays to develop your understanding in certain key areas.
For example, before you’ve even broken ground on your new construction, do you know what’s required of you to get the ball rolling? Do you need to submit a Full Plans Application, or will a Building Notice suffice? Perhaps you’re already halfway through your project? If so, you can submit a Regularisation to retroactively certify work that's already been completed.
There are also various types of work that need prior approval. This includes anything that involves:
- Bathroom installations that require additional plumbing work
- Electrical systems
- Cavity wall insulation
- Fixed air-conditioning unit installation
Additionally, it's important to know what circumstances the government can enforce compliance measures in response to a violation or assume control of the project directly.
That’s still only the tip of the iceberg and doesn’t cover the various tests and assessments that must be performed to make sure your property complies with regulations. Though infrequent, regulatory changes do happen in the construction industry as health and safety policies continue to be refined in the wake of technological advancement. And this can cause its own problems.
So, although the building inspector (regulated by the Local Authority Building Control) will be responsible for ensuring your work complies with the necessary regulations in the majority of cases, possessing a working knowledge of building regulations can spare you legal headaches, as well as unnecessary costs and delays, further down the line.
2. Store Relevant Information in a Central Hub
There are several ways to keep track of regulatory requirements across your property portfolio. The simplest is to do away with physical documents and messy filing cabinets, and store relevant compliance information within a consolidated digital hub.
Doing so gives you easy access to everything from certificates and inspection reports, to risk assessments, supplier details, material orders, equipment invoices, and any notes you make to specific tasks during the construction process.
Cloud-based solutions are especially useful. By storing regulatory information in the cloud, you have secure and easy access to important information. This enables you to monitor compliance across your entire portfolio anywhere, at any time. In turn, this helps you keep up to date with important regulatory changes and technological innovations.
The best software features automated reminder and alert functionality, ensuring you don’t overlook important tasks — such as fire alarm tests or electrical inspections — that would otherwise delay your project. If you’re juggling multiple projects simultaneously, this can prove invaluable.
3. Establish a Clear Audit Trail
The other major advantage of storing regulatory and compliance information in a central hub is that it establishes a clear audit trail.
Approved inspectors, those whose job it is to assess your project to confirm completed and future work adheres to existing regulations, must have full visibility into any documentation (current or historical) related to regulatory compliance. This includes the approval certificates that permit you to begin work in the first place, as well as supporting documentary evidence for all relevant inspections, assessments, and tests.
From the property developer’s perspective, having access to historical records helps you better prepare for future projects. You can remind yourself how often vital checks had to be made to stay compliant; the most efficient way to organise tasks; how long it takes to complete specific activities; and any mistakes you may have made (and how to avoid them). Information like this helps you improve efficiency and communicate the current state of your project more accurately.
Storing information in one place allows you to switch between individual projects without having to trawl through overcrowded filing cabinets or scores of Excel spreadsheets.
It’s all about improving transparency — which is why cloud-based systems are the most user-friendly. At every stage, you and any relevant third parties have a bird’s-eye view of your entire project portfolio and can see at a glance what’s been done and what remains to do.
Failure to comply with building regulations and appropriate ISO standards can have serious consequences for property developers.
It’s true that the inspector is responsible for ensuring building regulations are adhered to, but they can only advise the property owner if they discover any violations. Once notified, the onus is on you to make the appropriate changes. If not, the local authority may force your hand with an enforcement notice or even perform the work itself — at your expense.
In worst-case scenarios, you may find yourself brought before the Magistrates’ Court. Prosecutions can be initiated up to two years after the offence has been committed, while there’s no limit on the fine that can be imposed on someone found guilty of negligence or deliberately contravening regulations.
Additionally, buildings that don’t comply with regulations will be refused a compliance certificate upon completion of your project. This information will be visible during land search enquiries, which will negatively affect the value of your property and make it more difficult to sell.
As this makes clear, the risks of non-compliance are high.
Regulatory Compliance Made Easy
Managing compliance across your entire property portfolio can be extremely taxing. With so many rules and regulations to consider, staying on top of health and safety is a tall order without an advanced and secure management solution.
That's why many property managers now use health and safety software to store their compliance data. A single, consolidated database improves visibility of vital compliance tasks, and most importantly, increases compliance confidence.