16 November 2020

Plan ahead for UK property refurbishment success


Jessica Smith
Associate | UK

Whether you’ve newly acquired a property, or whether you’ve owned your home for some time, embarking on a renovation project can be daunting. Not only will you be faced with decisions to make as to how you want the finished project to look, you should also be aiming to manage your project in such a way so as to ensure that the works increase the value of your property, rather than diminish it.

We understand how much there is to think about at the start of a project and so we’ve highlighted in this piece some key points that we recommend you consider.

1. Third party approvals or consents? Do you own the freehold of your property, or is your property leasehold? If the latter, you should review the terms of your lease so that you can liaise with your landlord well in advance of works commencement to obtain their consent (where this is needed) and address any specific requirements they may expect you to comply with during the project.

Heritage Property? Listed Building Consent? Planning Permission? If your project is complex, or if your property is listed, it is often advisable to take professional advice from a planning consultant on the permissions or consents that will be required. Where the project is less complex, your architect should be in a position to advise on and support planning applications as part of his or her services.

It is important that the necessary consents or permissions are obtained prior to starting the works as, if consent is not obtained, you may receive an enforcement notice from your local planning authority at a later date. Carrying out works without the requisite consents or permissions can also cause problems further down the line, when it comes to selling your property at a later date.

2. Project Management? Do you want to take a ‘hands on’ role for the project and liaise personally with the contractor, the contract administrator and interior designer? Or would you prefer to employ a project manager to do this?

Effective project management is key to the smooth running of a project. We ordinarily recommend that our clients do engage project managers/contract administrators on all but the smallest of projects. This is particularly helpful if you are not going to be available to attend the site very often, for example, if you travel or work frequently overseas. The payment certification regimes under standard form building contracts can be complex, therefore clients often prefer to engage a professional with a good working knowledge of these contracts to administer them throughout the project.

3. Insurance? It is important to inform your insurer at the earliest opportunity of your plans so that they can confirm whether the works will be covered by your existing home insurance policy, or whether additional cover will be required. Standard form building contracts give insurance options which may reflect your insurance arrangements, or may require tailoring, but it is important to determine, prior to commencement of the works, the best insurance arrangement for your project. If you are a leaseholder of an apartment, for example, it is likely that your landlord’s building insurer will have particular requirements which you and your contractor will have to adhere to when arranging works insurance.

4. Architect? Structural Engineer? It is likely that you will engage an architect to translate your ideas into buildable designs, which may also require the input of a structural engineer to work up the necessary technical drawings and calculations.

5. Contractors? The process of contractor selection may need input from your project manager. For larger projects, this may include assistance with negotiations or tenders. Once you’ve selected your preferred contractor, it is important to ensure that they are engaged on sensible terms from the outset of the project.

6. Contracts for the team? You may wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to documenting your project properly. A well-drafted building contract is designed to facilitate the smooth running of the project. For example, it will set out how and when the contractor will be paid, the standard they must carry out the works to meet, the insurances they must have in place and the pre-conditions to practical completion.

It is important that the terms on which you engage your contractor and professional team will not limit your options for the future sale or re-mortgage of your property. A well-advised purchaser may expect to receive collateral warranties or third party rights from the contractor and the professional team (giving the purchaser their own contractual protection against the relevant parties) or to benefit from the assignment of the construction documents. This means that these documents should provide for such eventualities when they are originally drafted.

7. Finance? You may be planning to self-fund, or you may wish to take a loan for the project. If you are raising finance for the works, it is advisable to understand the requirements of your lender from the outset so that you can ensure that the contracts that you enter into are drafted to accommodate them. It is likely that your lender will require either collateral warranties from the key members of the professional team and the contractor, or will wish to take some form of security over the suite of contracts you have entered into.

Conclusion

Forward planning at the outset of a project is recommended and will have long term benefits. Engaging the right people on the right contractual terms will give you the best protection and also the flexibility to sell, re-finance, or enjoy your property as you desire.

Jessica Smith Associate | London

Category: Article