Planning Permissions: Guide For Buy-To-Let Landlords

Planning consultant providing advice

Having a general understanding of planning permission and the application process can assist landlords when they research and view properties as potential buy-to-let investments.

It will assist them with assessing whether there is scope to make improvements and add value to the property in the future. Also, the processes which will need to be followed and whether they are likely to gain approval.

This guide will explain how planning permission and building regulations work. It will also answer the most common questions for property investors and landlords about how they can improve and add value to their buy-to-let investments.

What Is Planning Permission?

Most new buildings and significant changes to current buildings need approval, which is known as planning permission. Planning permission can allow you to build new buildings, large extensions or to change the use of a building.

You will need to apply to the local planning authority to get planning permission, who will either approve your application (sometimes subject to certain planning conditions) or refuse it.

You do not need to apply for planning permission for some types of development. This is because there is something called Permitted Development Rights that allows you to convert or extend buildings under certain circumstances.

Most planning applications are now submitted online using the Government’s approved Planning Portal. This is considered to be the best way to submit an application, and all you need is an email address to register.

The Planning Portal includes a whole host of helpful information and guidance. This consists of a list of common projects where further information is provided on whether planning consent is required or not. It also includes the details of your local planning department.

What Is Building Control?

Building control sets standards and rules that building works must comply with. These are known as Building Regulations. You can apply for Building Regulations approval from the Building Control department at your local council or an approved private contractor.

The fees for Building Regulations applications vary depending on your scheme and the process involved.

Depending on the work involved, the building control team (or private contractor) can assess the building work at different stages or at the end of the building process.

Regular appointments are more costly. However, it limits the risk of any large scale abortive work which may be needed to bring the work up to the correct standard.

Types Of Planning Permission

There are two main types of planning permission:

Outline Planning Permission

Outline planning permission is where an applicant has submitted an outline planning application, seeking to understand whether the nature of the development is acceptable.

Specific details of the scheme are then delayed for reserved matters or full application to be submitted at a later stage.

For example, an applicant may want to know if a new house in their garden would be acceptable in principle, but they want to leave matters of detail (such as the layout, design and appearance of the buildings) to a later full application.

The granting of outline planning permission does not allow the development to commence. Instead, it must be followed by a later reserved matter of full planning application.

Furthermore, the outline planning permission will generally require a reserved or full planning application form to be submitted within 3 years. However, some councils use different time periods, so you should check the details specific to your site if you have a place with outline planning permission.

Full Planning Permission

Full planning permission covers the detailed proposals of a development. 

Further detail is required for full planning permissions, such as detailed drawings, the buildings’ height, location, and design. In addition, depending on the application, additional assessments such as flood risk assessments may be required.

Full planning applications can be made without outline planning permission. In contrast, reserved matters applications are submitted after outline planning permission has been granted.

Depending on the conditions attached to the full or reserved matters planning permission, you may be able to commence your development once they have been granted.

Whilst not technically a type of planning permission, you can do some building and conversion work under Permitted Development Rights.

These are subject to some limitations and conditions. For some types of Permitted Development Rights, you will need to notify your council before work commences, even for small changes. This is known as the Prior Approval process, and the council will either approve or refuse your prior approval application.

You may also hear about householder planning applications and permissions. 

This simplifies applications that aren’t covered by permitted development rights but are looking to change or enlarge a single house.

A householder application should be decided within 8 weeks, and the level of detail required will vary on the scheme in question.

Architect drawing plans for planning permission

The Process Of Applying For Planning Permission

Most planning applications are now submitted online using the Government’s approved Planning Portal. People are encouraged to apply online using an online application form, or people can download a paper form and submit it. In addition, applications can be submitted by yourself or an agent on your behalf.

The planning application will then be sent to your local council. First, the council will check that they have enough information to assess the planning application. This is called the validation process. Suppose the council consider that not enough information is provided. In that case, they will write to the applicant and tell them what information is required.

Once an application has been confirmed as validated, the council will advertise the planning application, including notifying your neighbours and any relevant organisations, such as the highways department.

Most planning applications are decided within 8 weeks of the application being validated. More complex sites have a slightly longer timescale of 13 weeks. Some applications have to be decided at a planning committee meeting, but most extensions tend to be decided by planning officers.

If your application has not been decided within these timeframes, and you have not agreed to extend the deadlines, you can appeal to the Secretary of State.

However, planning appeals take several months, and it usually is faster to reach an agreement with your council.

What Are The Costs Of Planning Permission?

The Government’s Planning Portal website has a helpful fee calculator, which can be used to calculate your planning application fee. The costs of planning applications will depend on the types of work and the size of the site.

If you plan on extending your building and it needs planning permission, an application currently costs £206. If you need Prior Approval for your building works or conversion, such as a larger home extension, additional storeys on a home, and conversions of buildings into other uses, the fee is £96.

An outline planning permission costs £462 per 0.1 hectares for sites up to 2.5 hectares. Sites larger than 2.5 hectares cost £11,432, with an additional £138 per 0.1 hectares, up to £150,000.

Full and reserved matters applications cost the same.

Alterations of extensions to a single house (where permitted development rights don’t apply) cost £206.

If the incorrect fee is paid on application, the council are likely to return the application and ask for the correct fee to be paid before the application is considered.

There are certain circumstances whereby planning applications are free. This includes where the development is purely for providing access for a disabled person who would live in the property.

It is important to note that these prices are only for submitting the planning application, and they may vary over time. If you use any professional services, such as architects, planning consultants or solicitors, then their fees will need to be added to the costs above.

Planning Permission Appeals Process

Suppose you have had planning permission refused or your application has not been determined in the right timescales. In that case, you have the right to appeal to an independent Planning Inspector.

The Government suggest that appeals should be seen as a last resort, and applicants should speak to the council to see if any changes to the scheme would lead to planning permission being granted.

Planning appeals take a long time, far longer than the 8 and 13 weeks that councils need to make a decision. As such, it may be quicker to resubmit an amended application to the council.

However, in some circumstances, you may have no other choice but to appeal the council’s decision. A Planning Inspector will look at the application independently, looking at the rules and regulations and deciding the application on its own merits.

Planning appeals are free. However, you may need to pay for specialist advice from an architect or planning consultant.

You may be able to recover some of your fees relating to the appeal from the council. Still, you will need to submit an application to claim planning appeal costs.

To be successful, you will need evidence that the council has acted unreasonably and has cost you money.

What Is The 10 Year Rule In Planning Permission?

If work has been done on your property that requires planning permission, but none has been granted, you may be protected by the 10-year rule. This requires councils to take enforcement action within 10 years of a planning control breach.

If an enforcement notice has been served, or you want to regularise the extension or use of the building, you will need to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate.

The burden of proof lies with the applicant for Lawful Development Certificate applications. Therefore you will need to ensure that you have robust and consistent evidence covering the whole 10-year period.

If this applies to you, it is advisable to seek advice from your council and an architect, conveyancer or planning consultant.

What Happens If You Don’t Follow Planning Permission?

Suppose you fail to follow planning permission or do works that need planning permission. In that case, you may be visited by the council’s planning enforcement team. The council will then either serve you with an enforcement notice, which requires you to undo the building work or submit a retrospective planning application.

A retrospective planning application will be submitted to the council and should be approved within the 8 or 13 weeks timescale. Your retrospective application will be assessed on its own merits. The fact that you have already completed or started the works shouldn’t impact the decision.

It is illegal to ignore an enforcement notice, but you can appeal it to the Planning Inspectorate. If you fail to comply with an enforcement notice, you can be fined or jailed.

If your appeal is unsuccessful, you can apply to the High Court, but this can only be done if you think the Planning Inspector has made a legal error. If you are unsure about this, you should seek legal advice.

What Are Building Regulations?

Building regulations are rules set by the Government to ensure that new buildings, conversions, extensions and renovations are safe, healthy and energy-efficient. Building regulations are very detailed and cover topics such as accessibility, fire protection, electric and gas safety and energy performance.

It is essential to apply for building regulation approval for your work, as this can cause issues when selling or remortgaging a property. 

If a buyer or lender insists on you having building regulation approval, in addition to delaying the sale of the property, you will have the additional costs of submitting a building regulation application and remedying any work that doesn’t meet building regulations.

It is important to note that building regulations change over time. Therefore, they may become more stringent between the time of your works and your building control application.

Building regulations have become more stringent in recent years as there has been a drive to make buildings more energy-efficient.

Building regulations also protect you from any unsatisfactory building works done by your contractor. Regular site visits from building control surveyors during the building work can ensure that the construction work is produced to the proper standard resulting in building consent.

A company or person who does construction work that does not meet building regulations could be prosecuted or fined.

two women checking building regulations

What Is The Difference Between Building Regulations And Planning Permission?

Building regulations and planning permission are two separate things. Building regulations are a set of standards that apply to the building works. Whereas planning permission is approved for the type of work you are looking to conduct.

Some internal works can be done to your property without the need for planning permission. However, Building Regulations approval may be required.

If you have planning permission, this does not mean that your proposal will meet building regulations.

Similarly, if you have been granted building regulation approval for your works, this does not mean that planning permission has been granted.

Can You Apply For Planning Permission Before You Buy A Property?

Yes. You don’t have to own a property to make an application for planning permission. However, you will need to notify the current owners (and any leaseholders) that you are applying for planning permission.

Because of the timescales involved in the planning process, submitting a planning application before buying a property can speed things along.

This can prevent your new property from sitting empty, waiting for your proposed development plans to start for at least the first 8 or 13 weeks of your ownership. It could also help with financing the purchase of the property.

However, you will need to weigh the risks against the benefits. For example, if granting planning permission would increase the value of the property and you haven’t exchanged contracts yet, you run the risk of the seller pulling out of the deal and seeking more money.

Similarly, if a sale collapses, you are unlikely to be able to claim the application fees.

Do You Need Planning Permission To Convert A Loft Into A Room?

Converting a loft into a room can add value to your property by adding a valuable additional bedroom or home office. Thankfully, you do not need planning permission to convert a loft into a room in most cases, as this can be done under Permitted Development Rights.

Certain limits and conditions are applied to these Permitted Development Rights, such as requiring any side-facing windows to have obscure-glazed.

If your scheme does not meet these conditions and limits, you must apply for planning permission for loft conversions. Similarly, some councils have used Article 4 Directions’ to block permitted development rights.

If an Article 4 Direction covers your property, you may need to apply for planning permission. If you are in any doubt, you should seek professional application advice from an architect or planning consultant.

Whilst planning permission isn’t normally required, building regulations will be needed to address matters such as insulation and fire safety.

Do You Need Planning Permission To Convert A Garage To A Room?

Where the garage is attached to the main house, most garage conversions do not need planning permission, as they fall under Permitted Development Rights. However, if you are looking to convert a detached garage, planning permission is likely to be required.

It is estimated that only 10% of garage conversions need planning permission.

Garage conversions can add value to a property. Approximately half of the country’s garages are not used for cars. With bigger cars becoming popular, many garages built before the 1990s are unlikely to fit most modern vehicles.

As such, their conversion can add some much-needed space to a house. 

They have become popular as it is likely that a garage conversion will be cheaper, easier and quicker than an extension built from scratch.

Permitted development rights may be limited in Conservation Areas (areas of historical importance), areas that have a tree preservation order, a listed building, or areas with specific parking problems.

As always, it is worth checking with your council or seeking professional advice, to make sure that you do not need planning permission for your garage conversion project.

It is important to note that if Permitted Developments Rights do not apply to your property or scheme, this does not automatically mean that planning permission will be refused.

Instead, you have to go through the planning application process, where the council will decide to either grant or refuse your application.

Do I Need Planning Permission To Build An Extension On A Property?

Drawings for a property extension

Permitted development rights allow you to extend a residential property without planning permission, as long as specific limitations and conditions are met. Permitted development rights do not apply to flats and maisonettes, houses created through permitted development, and areas where permitted development rights have been removed.

Different rules apply for side extensions, single-storey extensions and extensions of more than one storey.

For permitted development to apply for all extensions, the following need to apply:

  • Only half of the land around the original house can be covered by extensions or other buildings.
  • Extensions cannot be higher than the highest part of the existing roof.
  • If the extension comes within 2 metres of a boundary, then the eaves (the edge of the roof which overhangs the wall) height cannot be more than 3 metres.
  • Extensions cannot be built forward of the principle elevation’ – e.g. the front of the property, or if the side fronts the road, then the same applies to the side elevation.
  • The works must not include: verandas, balconies or raised platforms, a TV aerial or satellite dish, a chimney, flue or soil/vent pipe, or any alteration to the existing roof.
  • The materials used must be of a similar appearance to those of the existing house, and cladding cannot be used in protected areas.

For side extensions, for permitted development to apply, the extension:

  • Cannot exceed four metres in height
  • Can only be a single storey
  • Can only be up to half the width of the original house.

All side extensions in protected areas will need planning permission.

Single storey extensions cannot extend beyond the rear wall of the original house by more than 4 metres for detached homes and more than 3 metres for non-detached houses. In addition, single-storey extensions cannot be higher than 4 metres.

Rear extensions of more than one storey can be built using permitted development rights. However, you will need planning permission for a side extension of more than one storey.

Rear extensions will need to have a matching roof pitch to the existing house, and upper floor side windows must have obscure glazing and be non-opening.

Again in protected areas, permitted developments do not apply, and you will need to apply for planning permission.

Larger single-storey rear extensions can be permitted of up to 8 metres for detached houses and 6 metres for any other house, but if you wish to do this, then you will need to make a prior approval application to your council.

A prior approval application for a larger single-storey rear home extension is different from a full-blown planning application.

Your council will consult your neighbours, and if your scheme meets the prior approval requirements and your neighbours do not object to your application, it will be approved.

Some councils have a charge on development called the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). If your extension adds over 100 metres of floor space, you may be liable for a CIL charge. The amount you are due to pay varies between councils.

Do I Need Planning Permission For A HMO

If you are wanting to rent a property to 7 or more unrelated people, you’ll need to seek planning permission for ‘change of use’ regardless of the number of bedrooms.

Also, if the area falls under Article 4 Direction (this means the local planning office has added restrictions), you will need to apply for planning permission even if you are wanting to accommodate less than seven people.

Are you looking to purchase a potential HMO property? Read my ‘Does A Property Used As An HMO Require Planning Permission?’ article for more information.


To be a successful property investor and landlord, you should remember these important factors regarding planning permission:

  • Recognising the potential a particular property has for improvements and whether alterations will require approval.
  • Know the processes required to avoid potential delays in starting or completing renovations or new builds.
  • Ensure that the property conforms to central and local government regulations before submitting a purchase offer. And if it doesn’t, you can adjust your offer accordingly to assist with funding the corrections.
  • Ensure that properties within your portfolio comply with planning laws to avoid fines or hassles should you decide to sell one day.

By being aware of the necessary steps in the planning permission process, landlords and property investors can save time and money when researching potential buy-to-let properties.

It is important to remember that each local authority has its own rules and regulations. So it is always advisable to contact your local planning office for general advice before submitting a planning permission application. 

By understanding the basics, landlords can make more informed decisions about which properties to invest in and avoid any potential unnecessary hurdles down the road.

Andy Walker

Andy Walker is a property investor and landlord with over 20 years of experience, providing free education to help others start or improve their Buy-To-Let business.

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