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Derek Ching


With effect from 25th April 2024, the time periods after which enforcement action cannot be taken in respect of certain types of development have been changed. 


Abolition of the four year rule

Before that date, a change of use to a single dwelling house or the carrying out of unauthorised works would be immune from enforcement after a period of four years. Section 115 of the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Act 2023 amends these time periods so that enforcement powers can now be exercised up to ten years after the breach concerned. 

This brings the enforcement period into line with the existing period applicable to other changes of use. 


Transitional rules

There are transitional periods which preserve the four-year rule for unauthorised works which were substantially completed before 25th April 2024, or where a change of use to a single dwelling house has occurred before 25th April 2024. 

The new rules relating to changes of use to single dwelling houses do not apply to changes occurring up to and including 24th April. It is not therefore necessary to show the requisite four-year period has elapsed prior to 25th April 2024. For example, a change of use occurring in January 2024 will still benefit from the four year rule and so will be immune from enforcement if no enforcement action is taken prior to Jan 2028, not January 2034.


Practical impact

The extension of the time limit for enforcement means that local planning authorities have much greater opportunity to take enforcement action to deal with unauthorised works or change of use to a single dwelling.

In relation to changes of use to a single dwelling, it also means that the period during which evidence of continued use needs to be provided to secure immunity from enforcement is now extended. This means that securing immunity from enforcement becomes more problematic for landowners. 

Where there has been an unlawful change of use to a single dwelling house or unauthorised works completed prior to 25th April 2024, property owners would be well advised to preserve evidence to support the position. This will be needed if they need to apply for a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development under Section 191 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990. Equally, such evidence should be preserved should they need to defend enforcement action.

An application for a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development must be sufficient to satisfy the local planning authority on the balance of probabilities that the relevant use or development is lawful and that the change of use has been continued throughout the required period. Useful evidence includes contractors’ and consultants’ invoices, or relevant reports and contracts relating to the project. Other evidence may include copy tenancy agreements, building control certificates, Council Tax or rates information, electoral registration information, registration of postal addresses, as well as more direct evidence such as photographs and Statutory Declarations by those involved. 

The legal status of development is important for future property transactions, as potential buyers and funders will want to see that works or changes of use, as the case may be, are immune from enforcement. 

The changes are also significant for those involved in development, as establishment of lawful development status due to the passage of time is often an important element in demonstrating the “base position” against which the acceptability of future development proposals are measured. The increased period makes this task much harder.


How we can help

Our team of experts have extensive experience, specialist knowledge and clear understanding to advise property developers and landowners on development transactions. 

For further information, please contact our Development and House Building Team on [email protected].

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

Get in touch

If you have any questions relating to this article or have any legal disputes you would like to discuss, please contact the Development & Housebuilding team on

[email protected]
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