Some people believe that the 7 year rule amounts to a kind of amnesty from the consequences of having carried out an unauthorised development. This belief is incorrect. While the 7 year rule does provide a certain amount of comfort to a property owner or potential purchaser, an unauthorised development remains an unauthorised development unless and until retention permission is sought and granted. This unauthorised status carries with it certain difficulties which this article will explain.
What is the 7-year rule?
In cases where no permission has been granted, the period starts to run on the date the development is deemed to have been completed.
In cases where planning permission has been obtained the period of 7 years starts to run from the date of expiration of the planning permission. So, where the permission has a five year life span and this period has not been extended, the planning authority cannot take enforcement proceedings after 12 years.
It is important to be aware that whatever time period applies, an unauthorised development remains an unauthorised development. All the 7-year rule does is prevent the local authority from taking enforcement proceedings.
Problems of relying on the 7-year rule
- In a situation where an original development was an unauthorised development it may be difficult to obtain permission for a further development or redevelopment of the property.
- If a purchaser of a property is obtaining a loan from a bank or lending institution then the solicitor acting for that purchaser/borrower will, in the light of the unauthorised development, need to seek from the lender what is called a “qualification of title.” The lending institution may decide not to accept the qualification on title and refuse to give the loan because of the unauthorised development. Thus, even if a purchaser is willing to risk proceeding with the purchase, they may not be able to obtain the finance to do so. Clearly, this impacts on the value and marketability of the property.
- In the event of a compulsory acquisition, the unauthorised development may not attract compensation.
- There is an entitlement to compensation under the planning legislation in circumstances where a property has been destroyed by fire and for some reason planning permission to rebuild is refused. However, this is only in the case where the construction was an authorised development.
- Water connections may be refused where the development is unauthorised.
- A development which would otherwise be an exempt development will be not be such if same would consist of or comprise the extension, alteration, repair or renewal of an unauthorised structure or a structure the use of which is an unauthorised use. Thus a small extension that would in a normal situation be exempt, would not be exempt where it extends an unauthorised development.