If you need a formal decision from your council to show that your residential existing use or development is lawful, then you can submit an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness, also known as ‘4 Year Rule’ planning.
Homeowners and developers can use the current Certificate of Lawfulness legislation to retrospectively bring their property into line with their local council regulations by unequivocally proving that the property has been constantly used as such for the previous four years, hence the name ‘4 Year Rule’.
A Certificate of Lawfulness is a legal document regularising unauthorised development, as opposed to the more time-consuming route of applying for a document granting planning permission, which would require strict compliance with national and local standards.
If you are selling your property, the buyer’s solicitor will ask you to provide this certificate, and if you are applying for a re-mortgage, your lender may also request to see this certificate.
The ‘4 Year Rule’ allows you to make a formal application for a certificate to determine whether your unauthorised use or development can become lawful through the passage of time — not through compliance with space standards — and can be continued without the need for planning permission.
Here at Urbanist Architecture, we offer a service making Certificate of Lawfulness applications on behalf of our clients to regularise their unwittingly unauthorised development. We always advise following the required space standards and complying with regulations, and will try to suggest ways to improve the current conditions. If that proves to not be possible, then complying with the national legal framework, we will provide a solution for your property.
If your property can be rearranged, within your budget and projections, to allow for compliance with current regulations, it is always advisable to proceed with a full planning application.
If you have split your house into self-contained areas with separate accesses, or if your property has evolved into multiple self-contained units over the years (from older relatives living with you, etc) you may be able to get a Certificate of Lawfulness if they have been rented out continuously for over four years, as the 4 Year Rule may allow you to legally bring your development into line and avoid enforcement proceedings from your local council.
NOTE: A Certificate of Lawfulness application is NOT a replacement for a due Planning Permission process.
It’s important to mention that a Certificate of Lawfulness generally applies to the continuous use of a building over ten years – hence it also being known as the 10 Year Rule. You can get a Certificate if you can demonstrate that:
The exception to the above law is where a building is used as a dwelling house – i.e. use Class C3 including houses and flats. In this case, you can apply for Certificate of Lawfulness after four years of continuous use. For uses other than C3 — for example, C4 House in Multiple Occupation — you need ten years’ continuous use to apply for Certificate of Lawfulness.
In order to regularise the building’s use as a dwelling house, your architects or planners need to provide your council with sufficient factual information for them to consider your application. As such, you should prove continued uninterrupted use of your dwelling as separate self-contained flats for the established minimum of four years.
Potential evidence includes but is not limited to the following:
A word of caution: These examples are meant to give an idea of the documents required but the list is NOT exhaustive. It is wise to engage the services of professionals with experience in obtaining Certificates of Lawfulness to avoid obtaining an enforcement notice from your local council.
It’s also very important to mention that we do not accept all Certificate of Lawfulness applications:
If your property falls under the projects we do accept, bear in mind that, to date, we have prepared, submitted and managed hundreds of Certificate of Lawfulness applications, and have maintained a 100% success rate! We will help you make a list of all the things you need and guide you through the Certificate of Lawfulness process. In the end, that’s all you’ll need. Our pricing for a Feasibility Assessment and Application is detailed below:
Feasibility Assessment for Certificate of Lawfulness for Existing Use (4 Year Rule)
Application for Certificate of Lawfulness for Existing Use (The 4 Year Rule)
Given that a Certificate of Lawfulness is a retrospective regularisation, getting one is more complicated than it sounds. For this reason, your architects or planners need to provide sufficient factual information to demonstrate that the use in question has continued at the same level of intensity, and for the same purpose, for the period of these four consecutive years.
Here at Urbanist Architecture, we make sure that each and every Certificate of Lawfulness application we do is transparent, and so we can be justly proud of our record when it comes to obtaining consent for Certificates of Lawfulness, as we have secured consent for each and every 4 Year Rule case we’ve handled.