Contributed By Hawkins Hatton Corporate Lawyers Ltd
A local authority search will identify the permitted use of a parcel of land and whether this use has planning permission.
Where the property does not have planning permission for the permitted use, a seller/occupier of a commercial property can obtain a lawful development certificate for an existing use or development provided it can be shown that the property has been in that use for a continuous period of ten years or more. No enforcement action can be taken by a local authority once ten years have elapsed from the date of the breach (ie, the date on which the unlawful use of the property started).
An indemnity policy is usually readily available to provide cover to protect against the risk of any enforcement action.
In relation to a building where practical completion was more than four years ago and the use of the building has been as a dwelling for more than four years, a lawful development certificate can be obtained.
It is possible to obtain authorisation from the local authority in respect of change of use and it is always recommended that, prior to any development work, clients obtain the relevant planning permission from the local authority. This planning permission will include permission required to undertake the planned works and the use of property following completion of those works.