Our Real Estate blog addresses a range of property issues for homeowners, landlords and tenants in Scotland.

With more people than ever working from home, a lot of people are reconsidering their living situation, evidenced by the current mini boom in the housing market. However, not everyone is looking to move. For some, the answer lies in their current accommodation with some home improvements. When making improvements to your property, you should consider whether these require planning permission or building control documentation. If they are necessary but the proper permissions or documentation hasn’t been sought, it could cause issues when it comes to eventually selling your property.

Planning permission may be needed for development works and changes of use of the property. Generally, after four years, development works would tend to be immune to enforcement action by a local authority planning department, so whether this is an issue or not depends on when the works were done. A retrospective planning application may be necessary depending on what the works involved. Certain forms of development are deemed to be 'permitted development', like small extensions or replacing windows, so they can be carried out without permission. You should check with your local council's planning department to confirm. If you live in a listed building or conservation area though, there are greater restrictions in place.

You may also need planning permission for a change of use for your property. If you have started to run a business from home, for instance, permission may need to be sought - but it depends on the extent of the change. Any "material change of use" will require planning permission. Factors that will be relevant from the local authority's point of view will include: will there be lots of people coming and going from the house, which could disturb neighbours, or is it going to be a relatively small operation? A change of use of your property cannot become immune to enforcement action until after 10 years, so this is less likely to have occurred when you come to sell your property.

Even if you don’t need planning permission, you may need a building warrant and a completion certificate to ensure that the quality and safety of the works complies with building control regulations - it is important to take advice from surveyors, architects and your local authority building control department. Unlike planning, there is no general defence for missing building control consents, so it needs to be handled correctly. Dealing with it retrospectively can cause issues as building standards change over time, so while works may have been acceptable 20 years ago, that wouldn’t necessarily be the case now.