Posted on: 28 November 2018 (updated on 08 October)

Whether your start-up has outgrown your bedroom or you plan to open a second office, finding new business premises can be a difficult undertaking. That is why more business owners are considering converting a property they already own.

But it’s not as simple as putting a welcome sign above your front door: there are several important steps that must be taken before you can open for business. To help you cover the basics, we have compiled several things you need to consider before converting a property for commercial use.

Deciding on a location

First of all, you need to establish whether a property conversion is suitable for your business. This may sound obvious, but many businesses choose to trade in areas which are not suitable for their product.

As a bare minimum, you should carefully consider the needs and wants of local demographics. This includes analysing who your competition is and the success or failures of those competitors.

For instance, if you plan to open a tanning salon in an area populated by families and retirees, some simple market research might highlight several flaws in your business idea.

For those considering converting their own home, this step is vital. Your priority should be weighing up the short-term benefits against potential long-term issues.

Getting planning permission

Once you have decided upon a suitable area for your business, you then need to check if you are legally allowed to set up shop there.

More specifically, you must seek permission from the local council before you can change the use of a property. That is because land and buildings are categorised into “use classes.” These define what a property can be used for.

The Town and Country Planning Order 1987 outlines four main categories:

  • Class A covers retail premises, such as shops, banks and restaurants
  • 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. This means that if your property is not located in these specific areas, it may be difficult to gain permission for conversion.

Should you proceed with a property conversion without planning permission, you run the risk of receiving an enforcement notice – an order, that is illegal to ignore.

Building regulations

Once the paperwork is in order, your efforts should be focused on getting the property business-ready. This includes adhering to the health and safety laws set out for commercial environments.

To this end, the building you plan to convert may need to be developed to meet current fire safety, hygiene and energy requirements. After all, if you plan on having employees in your building, you have a duty of care for their wellbeing.

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 any development, however, you should take out public liability insurance. This policy will help to protect you financially should a contractor make a claim for compensation as a result of an accident on your premises. As for your own staff, it is a legal requirement to have employers’ liability insurance.

To read more about what you are legally obliged to do before opening your doors, head to the business section of gov.uk.

Keeping your business secure

Unlike residential properties, a commercial building requires much tighter security systems and commercial property insurance.

For instance, CCTV systems, shutters, alarm systems and other preventative measures can help to deter people from breaking into your property or committing criminal damage. It is also important to have a safe place to lock up any valuables left unattended on the premises.

Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, theft and vandalism can still happen. That is why it is vital to take out commercial building insurance and contents insurance to ensure your property is protected, should the worse happen.

Budget, budget, budget

Although it may seem cheaper to convert an existing property (rather than buy a new one), you still need to budget for unforeseen costs.

For instance, if the building requires work to bring it in line with the previously mentioned workplace regulations, then you could be looking at fees rising into the thousands.

While these fees might seem manageable on their own, they quickly add up. Before you start the conversion, make sure all costs are accounted for to avoid any nasty surprises down the line.

You can compare commercial landlord insurance quotes online with Premierline, or call us today to speak to one of our friendly insurance advisors.

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