If you’ve spotted an empty commercial building and can see the potential to convert it to residential accommodation, the first step is to understand the situation in relation to planning permission.
A covers retail and professional offices
B is for offices and commercial premises
C encompasses various types of accommodation
D covers all kinds of organisations where the public attend, but nobody lives there -
like museums, all kinds of school, health centres, churches, etc. Also entertainment,
health and leisure premises.
Each of these categories has sub-divisions too.
This means that the type of business that can open up in the premises is limited to the use it’s been granted by council. So, to change use, you would need to get permission from your local council.
In 2013 the government - as an anti-austerity measure - instituted some relaxation in the change of use regulations. There was (and still is) an oversupply of commercial property and not enough residential accommodation. The current situation (COVID-19) is likely to accelerate this situation. The result was a change in the permitted development regulations and, for some classes of property, the need for planning permission to convert between uses, was removed.
For example, in a residential -property that has not previously added any extensions, can extend the property’s footprint up to a specified limit, without having to apply for planning permission. This varies from property to property, depending on where the extension is and how many storeys the property has. Some offices can be converted to residential accommodation, without planning permission - but only certain classifications. It’s wise to get advice BEFORE buying. There’s nothing worse than investing and getting your plans drawn up only to refused planning permission.
The issue with this is that is doesn’t apply unilaterally across the UK. Local councils have the right to veto this in specified areas, if they feel it is detrimental to the local area. This means you need to check your local council’s regulations too.
Permitted development is highly complex and you need to know the details. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort. If you get the right advice and do your homework, you can find some really profitable deals.
Bear in mind that you will need either money to buy an empty commercial property - or use bridging finance.