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The council says we must knock down our converted garage we rent out – what can we do?


During the pandemic, my dad installed a bathroom and kitchen in the garage at the end of our garden and rented it out to a friend of his, for a token amount of £300 a month.

The guy had been renting a room in a house nearby and was evicted by his landlord at the start of the pandemic and had nowhere else to go.

My dad was just trying to provide someone with a home but now the council is saying that the converted garage is illegal, the tenant must move out and that it must be knocked down.

The house is in my name and I am worried about getting into trouble and being fined, but I don’t want to make anyone homeless or knock down the garage. Is there anything I can do? GK

Some councils have established specialist enforcement teams to target rented outbuildings (stock image)

Some councils have established specialist enforcement teams to target rented outbuildings (stock image)

MailOnline Property expert Myra Butterworth replies: Generally, it is difficult to get planning permission to convert a garage into a home.

Planners do not like to see plots subdivided into two dwellings where one is situated immediately behind the other.

We speak to a planning expert about whether you are in breach of planning control, and even if a crime has been committed, along with what you can do to help resolve the situation.

Martin Gaine, a chartered town planner, replies: If there is one thing that gets planning enforcement officers all hot and bothered, it is what they call ‘beds in sheds’ – people living in converted outbuildings.

It is a contentious issue, and some councils have specialist enforcement teams specifically to target outbuildings that have been rented out.

In your case, your dad was doing the tenant a good turn at a difficult time and, although some converted outbuildings are death traps, many are well built and have all mod cons. 

Planners do not like to see plots subdivided into two dwellings where one is situated immediately behind the other – known as tandem development 

The best garden ‘lodges’ are bespoke, comfortable and energy efficient.

Nevertheless, the council is right that you are in breach of planning control. 

By installing a kitchen and bathroom in the outbuilding and then renting it to a third party, your dad created an independent, self-contained dwelling and for that he needed planning permission.

It is extremely difficult to get planning permission for the conversion of a garage into a home.

Planners do not like to see plots subdivided into two dwellings where one is situated immediately behind the other – known as tandem development.

There are also strict minimum standards for new houses and flats, including minimum floor areas and requirements in terms of light, outlook, privacy, garden area and parking.

Planners do not like to see plots subdivided into two dwellings where one is situated immediately behind the other, according to planning expert Martin Gaine

Planners do not like to see plots subdivided into two dwellings where one is situated immediately behind the other, according to planning expert Martin Gaine

The ‘four year rule’ 

Under the so-called ‘four year rule’, a conversion to create a new dwelling becomes lawful in planning terms after a period of four years. 

However, you say that your dad installed the kitchen and bathroom during the pandemic, so presumably just a shade under four years ago.

It therefore seems inevitable that you will have to turn the outbuilding back into a garage. I recommend you work with the enforcement officer to work out how best to resolve the situation.

If the garage was converted into a dwelling, rather than being built as a dwelling in the first place, it is unreasonable that they are asking you to demolish it entirely. I don’t see why you cannot keep it as a garage. 

It should be enough that you reverse the unlawful development by removing the tenant and dismantling the kitchen and bathroom.

Enforcement officers are not ogres – they are there to help. 

They respond well to people who are open and honest with them. 

They prefer that the situation is resolved by agreement without the need for formal enforcement action.

They will generally give you enough time to serve notice on the tenant and for them to vacate, and for tradespeople to be hired to carry out the remedial works.

It is a not a crime to be in breach of planning and the system is not there to punish you. 

You do not need to worry about getting into trouble or being fined – an offence is only committed if the council serves an enforcement notice and you do not comply with it. 

The purpose of engaging the enforcement officer and finding an agreed solution is that an enforcement notice is avoided altogether.

If the council does serve an enforcement notice, it is important that you take specialist advice from a solicitor or planning consultant with experience of planning enforcement issues. 

You may need to appeal the notice and failure to comply with it has legal consequences, including the risk of prosecution.

Martin Gaine is a chartered town planner and author of ‘How to Get Planning Permission – An Insider’s Secrets

Luxury spa razed to the ground 

The demolition of the unauthorised £200,000 luxury spa complex at the home of Captain Tom Moore 's daughter

The demolition of the unauthorised £200,000 luxury spa complex at the home of Captain Tom Moore ‘s daughter

The issue of converting buildings without planning permission has been in the news in recent weeks due to the unauthorized £200,000 luxury spa complex at the home of Capitain Tom Moore’s daughter.

Captain Tom’s family lost an appeal against Central Bedfordshire Council to keep their spa complex after a planning inspector ruled it was ‘at odds’ with their Grade ll listed home.

Central Bedfordshire Council issued an enforcement notice last July to demolish the unauthorised building and their appeal was dismissed last November.

The demolition of the unauthorised £200,000 luxury spa complex at the home of Captain Tom Moore’s daughter has finally been completed this month.

Aerial photos show the building has been reduced to just a bare patch of mud after workers completed the week-long job at their £1.2million home in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire. 



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