Is Your Home Legal?: Planning Permission


Home owners intending to carry out works to their properties should remember that certain alterations and modifications require planning permission. Depending on the location of the property, such permission may be needed, not just from the Building Control Department of the Government of Gibraltar but also from landlords and / or management companies. The rationale for this is of course not merely bureaucratic, but is intended to ensure health and safety and the integrity of buildings, and therefore the rules must be complied with and are strictly enforced. Unfortunately, over time, the notion that planning permission is not a necessity seems to have got around. This is not because the authorities are lax, far from it, and Gibraltar has an enviable track record for the enforcement of building rules. More often than not, it is when a property is sold that these legal defects become apparent and can lead to delays in completion of transactions and great expense in returning properties to their original state in order to comply. Over the last 12 months, in which our conveyancing department has been particularly busy, our team reports an increase in non-compliant properties compared to other years. It would also seem that not every law firm provides buyers with advice on planning or if they do, that some people ignore such advice. Some of the cases that we have seen have been quite shocking and on one occasion required a £20,000 reinstatement of a flat which had been completely reconfigured, without taking into account basic fire control measures. The main problems involve the interconnection of kitchens and other habitable parts without adequate fire resistant doors; but there are a whole host of other deficiencies which crop up, such as the absence of certificates for air conditioning. Ultimately however, owners should remember that it is the health and safety of their families that are at risk and at all times should ensure that contractors are properly supervised in order to guarantee that all regulations are adhered to. Substantial works should be certified by a qualified surveyor. Unfortunately, it appears that a small number of contractors are more interested in providing cheap products and designs notwithstanding the safety implications. For anyone who has already carried out a re-configuration of a flat or house without planning permission, we recommend that surveyors should be instructed or the officials at the Building Control Department are asked for advice. Those wishing to sell their home this year should be forewarned that transactions may be delayed or fall through altogether if their homes are not in possession of an up to date and valid Certificate of Fitness. Original certificates obtained when a property is completed will no longer be valid if substantial works have been carried out without permission. Should any further advice be required in this regard, our conveyancing team is ready to help and please feel free to contact either Corrine Bossino or Tina Hayward at property@gomezco.gi


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