Posted on: 28 November 2018
Converting a property for commercial use can be a complicated undertaking for both budding entrepreneurs and veteran business owners alike. From planning permission to security, fire safety to building regulations, there are a whole breadth of rules and regulations to follow before converting a premise for commercial use.
To get you started, we have compiled five important aspects of commercial property conversion that you need to be aware of. To read more about what you’re legally obliged to do before opening your doors, head to the business section of gov.uk.
Before you can change the use of a property, you first must seek permission from your local council. Land and buildings are separated into different categories known as “use classes” that define what that particular property can be used for.
According to The Town and County Planning Order 1987, there are four main categories. Class A covers retail premises, such as shops, banks, and restaurants, while Class B includes the likes of offices, workshops and factories. Class C covers residential uses, like housing and apartments, and Class D is reserved for non-residential institutes, such as schools, museums, and libraries.
Most local councils have planning policies that include designated commercial areas, meaning that it may be difficult to gain permission to convert your property for commercial use if it is not located in these specific areas.
If you do proceed with your property conversion without first getting planning permission, you run the risk of receiving an enforcement notice - an order, that’s illegal to ignore.
Assess the property
Before signing the contract to lease or purchase a property, it’s important to properly assess your potential property to see how expensive, and viable, a conversion would be to bring it up to code for a commercial building.
From building regulations to security measures, you should be fully aware of the work that needs to be completed and how much you’ll need to invest to convert the building for commercial use.
You will also want to take this opportunity to judge the practicality of your conversion. Do walls need knocking down to make office space? Are they load bearing walls? Is there anything around the property that could stop the work? All these questions can be answered by a property surveyor before a purchase.
It’s important to know exactly how big a project you are taking on before signing the contract.
In order for your property to meet building regulations, you will need to take into account the health and safety laws set out for commercial environments.
To this end, when converting, the building may need to be developed to meet current fire safety, hygiene, and energy requirements, ensuring the health and safety of those working at your business.
These requirements are established by the local branch of the council’s building control body. Get in touch with them directly to find out exactly what modifications may need to be completed on your property.
Before you start developing your property, it might also be worth taking out public liability insurance to protect you financially, should a third party such as a contractor make a claim for compensation if they are injured or their property is damaged as a result of your business activities. If you do have employees, it’s a legal requirement for you to have employers’ liability insurance as well.
Similar to building regulations, fire safety regulations ensure that everyone who enters your building is kept safe in the event of a fire.
This includes carrying out a fire risk assessment, fitting your property with an appropriate amount of fire exits, and having an actionable fire evacuation plan in place. Your staff will also need to be trained on the latest in fire safety and be aware of the fire escape plan.
As a business owner/property owner, fire safety is your responsibility, so be sure to review your procedures regularly. For more information on fire safety in the workplace, head to gov.uk.
Unlike a residential property, a commercial building requires much tighter security systems and commercial property insurance to keep your business safe and protected outside of working hours.
Preventative measures, such as CCTV systems, shutters, and effective alarms, can help to deter anyone from breaking in or committing criminal damage. It’s also important to have a safe place to lock up any valuables left unattended on the premises.
Unfortunately, theft and vandalism can still happen, despite your best efforts. That’s why it’s vital to take out commercial building insurance and contents insurance to ensure your property is protected, should the worse happen.
You can compare commercial landlord insurance quotes online with Premier BusinessCare, or call us today to speak to one of our friendly insurance advisors.
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The information and tools contained in this guide are of a general informational nature and should not be relied upon as being suitable for any specific set of circumstances. We have used reasonable endeavours to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the contents but the information and tools do not constitute professional advice and must not be relied upon as such. To the extent permitted by law, we do not accept responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on the information or tools in our Knowledge Centre.