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The DIY don’ts that could land you in legal hot water

Rob Foxall, Associate Professor at The University of Law warns not to tackle these common DIY jobs without advice.

As we head into DIY season and millions prepare to tackle home renovation works, a legal expert at The University of Law has warned against DIY pitfalls which could land homeowners in legal hot water.

While a quick lick of paint or new roll of carpet is unlikely to cause trouble, there are some jobs around the home which, if not properly managed, could lead to unlimited fines and even prosecution. What’s more, laws around noise pollution and garden renovations add an extra consideration for homeowners to be cautious of.

To help those planning their long-awaited DIY tasks, Rob Foxall shares four common pitfalls to be aware of.

  1. Electrical works

Working with electrics can prove very dangerous and costly if not managed by a professional, so unless you know what you’re doing it’s always best to hire an electrician.

From a legal standpoint, any work including electrics around baths and showers, or fitting a new electrical supply to an outdoor building must be approved under Building Regulations by an appropriate body.

If you haven’t hired a professional who is registered with an appropriate “Competent Person Scheme”, then it’s your responsibility to seek this approval. Failure to do so is not only very dangerous, but also illegal, and could land you with an unlimited fine or even prosecution.

  1. Replacement windows or doors and heating

Another DIY job that falls under the umbrella of “notifiable work” under Building Regulations. Getting new windows or doors fitted can be a costly job, so it can be all too easy to want to turn to DIY to save costs.

However, if you’re taking the DIY route then you will also need to seek appropriate approval. Gaining approval usually incurs a cost and if the work isn’t up to scratch it may not be approved. Any work that isn’t approved by an appropriate body is illegal, which will cause serious problems when it comes to selling and will quickly land you on the wrong side of the law.

Also, fitting, altering or replacing an external flue or chimney or installing a new woodburning stove all fall under the Building Regulations, although they are not typically tasks that require planning permission.

  1. Noisy building works

Noise complaints over loud building works are all too common. Under the Pollution Act 1974, the power to control noise pollution sits with local authorities, which means the rules will be different depending on where you are in the country.

As a rule of thumb, noisy work can be carried out in the UK between 8am and 6pm on weekdays or 8am-1pm on Saturdays. On Sundays and bank holidays, many local authorities advise not to carry out any noisy works at all.

So, before beginning that noisy garden project or knocking down walls at the crack of dawn, check with your local authority to avoid getting caught with penalties – or worse still, upsetting the neighbours.

  1. Garden projects

As the sunshine begins to make an appearance, garden projects often make it to the top of the to do list. For those with green fingers, there are lots of considerations before tackling garden projects.

The main thing to be mindful of is your property boundary. Some of the most common issues occur when works interfere with a garden boundary, such as trimming down a tree that is overhanging into your garden. By law you're allowed to trim back to the property boundary but must seek permission before disposing of the debris. This can’t simply be throwing the branches back over the fence either, as this could be classed as fly tipping.

What’s more, if you’re planning on building a shed, pond or any other significant garden feature, there are strict laws around how close these are legally allowed near the boundary.

In short, before getting the shears sharpened, be sure to speak to your neighbours first and make sure you’re completely clear on your boundaries and limitations.

Rob continues: “Many of us turn our hand to DIY to help save a few pounds on projects around the home. However, there are some jobs that really are best left to the professionals, or else they risk major legal repercussions, not to mention health and safety.

“For work that is considered under Building Regulations, if you have a professional who is registered with an appropriate ‘Competent Person Scheme’ then you can relax in the knowledge that all the legal bits are looked after.”

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