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Back in March 2021, the UK government announced new rules that allow developers to convert commercial properties such as sports centres, cafes and restaurants into residential properties without the need for full planning permission. 

This move was an attempt to help regenerate the UK’s high streets and shopping centres and breathe new life into previously neglected buildings or areas. These new rules came at a time when the housing market demanded it more than ever and the trend for commercial to residential conversions continued to grow. 

Here are some of the most important steps to take when considering investing in a commercial property to convert. By following them, you’ll be more likely to make a savvy investment for your portfolio and maximise your income. 

First, check whether the commercial property is an exception

Despite the fact that the new rules are in place, it doesn’t mean that every class E property falls into the new category. There are many exceptions such as:

  • Buildings within conservation areas or national parks
  • Buildings within designated areas of natural beauty / scientific interest
  • Listed buildings
  • Buildings within safety hazard areas / military explosive zones

If the property you’re interested in falls into any of the above, you may not be able to carry out the conversion or additional rules may apply. 

Before you invest, ensure you know whether you are, indeed, exempt from planning permission. 

Next, identify the building ‘use class’

When converting a commercial property into a residential property, you will need to change the ‘use class’. The UK uses the following system: 

  • A class – Shops, restaurants and businesses that provide professional services
  • B class – Offices, storage facilities and warehouses
  • C class – Residential properties, hotels, care homes and other places of habitation 
  • D class – Schools, doctor’s surgeries, leisure facilities, cinemas and other miscellaneous uses. 

Contact your local authority for more information. 

Then double-check whether you need planning permission

Although the new rules state that most class E buildings don’t require planning permission, there are certain cases where it would be required after all. 

This includes buildings that are smaller than 150m2 or projects that require changes to the exterior of the property. Again, check with your local authority. 

Finally, think about commercial property conversion essentials

Once you’ve understood the legal requirements, take time to understand whether the commercial property requires additional changes to suit the needs of residents. This could include: 

  • Access for residents. Is it satisfactory? Does it need alterations? Would you prefer a key or pin code lock?
  • Elevators/lifts. Depending on your requirements, you may need to upgrade or alter your lift to meet the needs of your residents. We can help with this. Contact us today.
  • Health and safety. Is the building safe enough for future tenants? Review any plans with a professional who can advise you of any changes needed. 
  • Utilities. Do they provide sufficient output to meet the needs of residents? What about drainage? 

Converting a commercial property to a residential property provides an excellent investment opportunity that also benefits the local community. If you’re considering investing, follow these tips to assess what is available before you make a decision.

Need elevator help? Our experienced team is here at Concept Elevator to help you through the lift installation and maintenance process, plus provide emergency support when needed. Find out more here. 

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