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Planning Issues for Self Contained Annexes

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 9 Jul 2017 | comments*Discuss
 
Annex Self-contained Annexes Extension

A self-contained annex is a popular reason for building an extension. Building one can give teenagers and young adults a chance to live independently but have the security of being close to home.

The same benefits apply to annexes that provide accommodation for elderly or disabled relatives. Or sometimes they are built to provide accommodation for live-in nannies, au pairs or long-term guests.

Take Care When Planning an Annex

But there are a few things you have to be careful about when planning a self-contained annex to make sure that it’s not treated as a separate dwelling. It’s a confusing area and much of the advice is contradictory. You will need to take advice about your specific property and plans.

There are two main issues, council tax and planning. The planners will take into account the use the extension is to be put to when deciding whether or not the annex should be treated as a separate property. But the council won’t, they will base their decision purely on the construction of the extension.

So here we’ll try and make sense of some of the guidelines, but we must emphasise the importance of getting advice from the planners and the council before embarking on the building of the extension. Let’s take the council first.

Council Approach to Self-Contained Annexes

The council will be assessing whether or not they should be charging your annex for council tax as through it were a separate property. To do this they will look at the physical layout of the extension, the access and the facilities.

If the accommodation is all in one area, not split around different areas of the original property, they would not treat it as a separate property. But then that would be useless as a self-contained annex so it’s not really a solution. If the annex has a complete set of equipment for living (cooking and bathing facilities as well as living and sleeping) then the council are more likely to treat it as a separate property. So that would include most annexes.

Access to self-contained annexes used to be an important factor but most councils are down-playing it now. Many council websites state that an annex does not have to have its own entrance to be considered self-contained for the purposes of council tax. In the past people would keep an access door into the house from the annex to prevent it from being treated as a separate property but that would no longer seem to apply.

Planning Position on Annexes

From the planning point of view the approach is slightly different and has changed recently, so again it’s wise to get up-to-date advice. Usage is taken into account as to whether planning permission is required.

For example an extension providing an annexe for an elderly relative who makes frequent use of the lounge in the main property would not require planning permission. On the other hand, the very same extension, if rented out to an eighteen-year-old student who was not related and had their own car, would.

Use the Right Words When Planning

If you do need to apply for planning permission for the annex, not because it’s an annex but because it’s a particular size, or because of the rules in your area, then you can describe it as an extension in all the documentation. Avoiding the word ‘annex’ in your planning documentation won’t necessarily stop the council assessing it as a separate property but calling it one almost certainly will.

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We have bought a property with our son, every thing done correctly with deed of trust in place. Included in the property is a detached coach house with planning permission already in place to demolish and build a three bedroom town house. How do we proceed with removing it from the title deeds of the main property , will the mortgage company object and will it affect the value when and if separated . Sorry confused?
Elle - 9-Jul-17 @ 3:10 PM
So... this is a minefield isn't it? Anyway you do this the council will just want to find money.Our story is a little different, we built a small two bed cottage 15 years ago, because we worked away and to ensure my parents lived in a reasonably comfortable home we asked them to live there (at no cost) when we finally decided to settle down we went to our council to ask to build an extension which would allow us to live next door to my parents and not ask them to go into care, effectively we would end up being their carers - doing what you do to look after your parents (isn't this what the government wants? taking the burden away from social care????).Anyway the extension would mean the second bedroom would be a bedroom for our son (or possibly ours).We were told by the council that it can not be classed as two dwellings, we had to knock a door through the building so we all lived together..... ok. Revenues man came hounding, intimidating, did not say who he was and what he wanted whilst building works was still under way, We share the same oil, same electric, same water, we did leave their kitchen in to give them some bit of independence, however whether the kitchen was there or not they would class it as two separate dwellings (revenues office) aaaaaaa. I was then told to write a letter to say that the new extension was an annex as we would get a discount - now they say there will be no discount as my parents will continue to live in the original building whilst we live in the extension (same size but more modern which suits our taste) oh my gosh...... I'm sorry, but what do we do, I feel aggrieved to think we have to pay two council tax bands when they specifically told us we could not class it as two dwellings, we have no rent from my parents even though they live in our house which we built rent free and we are looking after them so they do not go into social housing - is this fair?? I feel sick, working hard to save all of our life, living somewhere to care for my parents but having to pay another set of rates - we live in the country so have no services such as bus or street lights etc. Why can't the orgiginal house be classed as the annex as it's now a one bedroom home to house two 84 year olds???? Even a 50% reduction would make a little difference - unbelievable. It is not clear at all! It's pretty disgusting.
Aaaa - 22-Mar-17 @ 6:01 PM
Hi there, I am planning to do side extension i.e., already a living room exists and want to extend at the rear of the living room by 3m(with a separate bathroom and kitchen). I know that a planning permission and building reqs are required for the side extensions. But can you please advise me with this plan how can I make this bit as legal thing and don't want to get into trouble with the council guys? Thanks, Sid
Sid - 31-Jan-17 @ 5:25 PM
We are making plans to extend our house by one room off the kitchen which would be used as an extra living room/ snug as our main living room is on the middle floor, but if my 90 year old Grandad needed extra help then this would quickly be converted to his living area with a wet room added on into the garage. Would we need planning permission and would this effect our council tax?? he would have direct access to our kitchen but we would fit a kitchen sink/ kettle/ microwave. Any advice would be greatly appreciated
kiki - 29-Jan-17 @ 3:15 PM
Hello, I am just about to exchange contracts on a property in the lake district that also has a separate annexe (already converted) that I wanted to set up as a holiday let. However, just today I have been made aware of a planning condition that exists on the annexe that says it can only be used for accommodation 'ancillary to the main house' (that would be our family home). I have never heard of this before. The estate agent is saying that we shouldn't be worried and that we'd easily get the planning condition removed after completion and that a change of use for a holiday let would be just a routine application. But I think there should be some negotiation before we proceed any further. There are lots of holiday lets in Cumbria but I am unsure now if I should proceed with the offer I put forward (because of the risk) or pull out altogether just in case - the holiday let would be our only source of income.Any help gratefully received.
Gideon - 12-Jan-17 @ 4:56 PM
Thanks. Yes council tax was charged 6 months so we are paying 2 council taxes. Nothing was said about did you get planning but obviously that was the next step to find out. My husband friend is saying if we take the kitchen out I.e the cooker and extractor it should be ok. But it still has separate entrance and kitchen units etc.... don't know what we should do I think best thing is to.leave and see what they say they are coming tomorrow.
Sophie - 9-Jan-17 @ 8:20 PM
Sophie - Your Question:
We bought a house with an extention in place. We blocked off the walls and turned it into a self contained unit to rent out with separate kitchen, bathroom and entrance from the back. We did not apply for planning permission as we really didn't know but now someone from council coming to inspect. What will happen from this could we now be able to apply for planning permission without taking it out? Any advice or guidance will help.

Our Response:
The council's planning department will be able to tell you what the options are. You may have to apply retrospectively for planning permission and await the decision before either carrying on as before or reinstating the building to its previous state. Your council tax will also be affected by this.
ExtensionBuild - 9-Jan-17 @ 2:35 PM
We bought a house with an extention in place. We blocked off the walls and turned it into a self contained unit to rent out with separate kitchen, bathroom and entrance from the back. We did not apply for planning permission as we really didn't know but now someone from council coming to inspect. What will happen from this could we now be able to apply for planning permission without taking it out? Any advice or guidance will help.
Sophie - 7-Jan-17 @ 9:18 PM
i am thinking of buying a house with an attached garage and a door into a 20foot by 8foot extension which at present is used as an office. it could be made into a mini flat with shower room and bed in garage area and small kitchen and living space in the extension area. what are planning implications and would it be liable for a separate council ta. thanks. sue
sue - 29-Dec-16 @ 11:07 PM
Rosh - Your Question:
I have recently applied planning permission to use my outbuilding as a annex but council refused the planning permission. They were saying it is separate unit not a annex as I had a electric hub installed before. It was already removed and reapplied for planning. The council again change my planning heading from Habitable Use to self contained unit. Can you please advise me how do I approach. I am truly stressed.

Our Response:
We can't advise on specific individual planning case where we don't have the full details. You may be better seeking the advice of a planning consultant.
ExtensionBuild - 20-Sep-16 @ 2:13 PM
I have recently applied planning permission to use my outbuilding as a annex but council refused the planning permission. They were saying it is separate unit not a annex as I had a electric hub installed before. It was already removed and reapplied for planning. The council again change my planning heading from Habitable Use to self contained unit. Can you please advise me how do I approach. I am truly stressed.
Rosh - 18-Sep-16 @ 11:23 PM
Alexa- Your Question:
I'm at my wits end in N Ireland I have a stand alone double garage My mum and dad are elderly mum has went into a wheelchair full time and there house isn't suitable They would need to start knocking lots of walls down as corridors to every room are not wide enough for wheelchair and in most rooms the wheelchair could not be turnedHence we thought if we made the garage into a bedroom lounge shower room and small kitchen mum could use her wheelchair plus we would be at hand to help as both parents are not to wellThe architect put in a change of use and small extension but have not joined it to the house as no 1 it would take up a lot of space trying to join it as it couldn't be squared off plus if it was joined it would mean half the house mum could use and the other half wouldn't be wheel chair friendly plus it's nice to have your own spaceThe planning asked for medical reasons and why we couldn't build up so I got them letters from doctors ministers etc who said it was getting dangerous for mum as she was falling without her chair and reason why we can't build up is because there is no where in the hall we could put stirs never mind a wheel chair lift and now they have come back saying why does it have to be in your house that care is given and can you prove it a hardship if we were turned down I don't know where to turn to and in fact what more I can do. We are not asking the government for any money they are willing to use the sale of the house the extension is looking into our own property at the back garden Can anyone tell me where I can turn to or what else I can do. I'm totally gutted it has been going on a year and I think plans keep moving the goal posts I haven't told mum and dad yet as I know they are depressed waiting for the planning to come through myself and my husband are having to travel 10mile round trip daily to do things for them

Our Response:
Clearly the council is reluctant to provide planning permission for this. You should contact social services and ask them what the alternatives are to keep your mother safe and cared for. They may be able to support your case or offer some alternative suggsetions.
ExtensionBuild - 15-Sep-16 @ 12:47 PM
I'm at my wits end in N IrelandI have a stand alone double garage My mum and dad are elderly mum has went into a wheelchair full time and there house isn't suitable They would need to start knocking lots of walls down as corridors to every room are not wide enough for wheelchair and in most rooms the wheelchair could not be turned Hence we thought if we made the garage intoa bedroom lounge shower room and small kitchen mum could use her wheelchair plus we would be at hand to help as both parents are not to well The architect put in a change of use and small extension but have not joined it to the house as no 1 it would take up a lot of space trying to join it as it couldn't be squared off plus if it was joined it would mean half the house mum could use and the other half wouldn't be wheel chair friendly plus it's nice to have your own space The planning asked for medical reasons and why we couldn't build up so I got them letters from doctors ministers etc who said it was getting dangerous for mum as she was falling without her chair and reason why we can't build up is because there is no where in the hall we could put stirs never mind a wheel chair lift and now they have come back saying why does it have to be in your house that care is given and can you prove it a hardship if we were turned down I don't know where to turn to and in fact what more I can do. We are not asking the government for any money they are willing to use the sale of the housethe extension is looking into our own property at the back garden Can anyone tell me where I can turn to or what else I can do. I'm totally gutted it has been going on a year and I think plans keep moving the goal posts I haven't told mum and dad yet as I know they are depressed waiting for the planning to come throughmyself and my husband are having to travel 10mile round trip daily to do things for them
Alexa - 14-Sep-16 @ 12:58 PM
Dan - Your Question:
We've applied for an L shaped extension to the side/rear of our semi detached house (with shared drive way) to accommodate a disabled bedroom and bathroom for my elderly father. We have been told by Harrow council that this will be declined as they want to stop developments like this, even though one immediate neighbour has one and another two doors away. We have proposed a larger door to the front of the extension (bottom of the shared drive way that will face that the street) to accommodate wheel chair access, but we have been told that there are multiple issues relating to the size, the door and other stuff which they have not yet told us until the determination is made in mid July. How best can we handle this? I know medical grounds do not impact planning decisions, but it seems unfair that the neighbour did theirs in 2002 and 2007 respectively.

Our Response:
It might be expensive, but a planning consultant can often help in situations like this. They no how to handle planning committees, often know the rules inside and out, they'll probably be acquainted with the planning officers and can negotiate acceptable amendments etc for you. It seems strange that in general, rules on extensions have been relaxed to enable more people to stay where they are (less demand on the housing stock), yet your council is clamping down.
ExtensionBuild - 16-Jun-16 @ 12:57 PM
We've applied for an L shaped extension to the side/rear of our semi detached house (with shared drive way) to accommodate a disabled bedroom and bathroom for my elderly father.We have been told by Harrow council that this will be declined as they want to stop developments like this, even though one immediate neighbour has one and another two doors away. We have proposed a larger door to the front of the extension (bottom of the shared drive way that will face that the street) to accommodate wheel chair access, but we have been told that there are multiple issues relating to the size, the door and other stuff which they have not yet told us until the determination is made in mid July.How best can we handle this?I know medical grounds do not impact planning decisions, but it seems unfair that the neighbour did theirs in 2002 and 2007 respectively.
Dan - 15-Jun-16 @ 10:48 AM
I am in the process of trying to obtain the annexe from my family.It is a wing of a grade 2+ building, and is currently rented out.Council tax has been paid stove the conversion 8 years ago.Is a change is use likely to go ahead, or will asking draw unnecessary attention to the fact that it is being rented out.I want it to be classed as a separate dwelling
Super - 27-Apr-16 @ 7:51 PM
We viewed a perfect bungalow that is for up for sale and put an offer in for the asking price but was then told that the loft area that is split into a master bedroom and bathroom did not have planning permission. We withdrew the offer and now wonder what are the implications if we did try to buy this property? Could we get permission or building control sign off in retrospect?
Roxie - 17-Sep-15 @ 4:13 PM
Sam - Your Question:
I have an outbuilding that has a Planning consent (issued in March 12) to be used as home office Gym. It has a kitchen (with gas cooker etc) and shower facilities. a Building control Certificate has been obtained for this development. I pay council tax and also have annual gas safety / Electric certificates.I also have a letter from the neighbourhood services stating the property could be let out.I would now like use it as a separate unit and (officially) rent it out. Could you please advice what Planning permissions should I seek ?

Our Response:
Apply to your planning office for a "change of use" permission.
ExtensionBuild - 8-Sep-15 @ 12:22 PM
I have an outbuilding that has a Planning consent (issued in March 12) to be used as home office Gym. It has a kitchen (with gas cooker etc) and shower facilities. a Building control Certificate has been obtained for this development. I pay council tax and also have annual gas safety / Electric certificates. I also have a letter from the neighbourhood services stating the property could be let out. I would now like use it as a separate unit and (officially) rent it out. Could you please advice what Planning permissions should I seek ?
Sam - 7-Sep-15 @ 4:26 PM
We have two annexes built about 9 years ago and have rented them out for the last 9 years. council tax has been paid on them for the last 5/6 years. now my neighbour has complained to the council & we are waiting for the enforcement officer to inspect.The official wording in our permission to convert to residential is that they have to be used as ancilliary to the main house and for the owners/occupants therein & for a permantly employed groom. We are an equestrian yard and both the tenants keep their horses here, share the driveway and all the facilities.Do you think we are in breach and what do you think the chances are to change the wording on the permission so that we can continue to rent them out?
katy - 23-Jan-13 @ 9:41 AM
I too am in the same position as the two comments above but as yet have never paid council tax for the annex.Ours is a complete seperate entity, not joined on, it is a two bedroomed bungelow with bathroom, kitchen and lounge/diner. We woud like to get permission to seperate the two and sell it as a standalone property.Originally the council said they would never let us?but they also said they would never let us convert it but we too it to appeal and won! what would be the chance of getting permission and how would we go about it?
jules - 15-Aug-12 @ 10:50 AM
I have a Annex built over 20 years ,it was rented out as a separate unit and separate council tax was paid over 1 year and after that period i was issued with a breach of planning law . Now i want to make it a separate unit What will be your advice please
rosh - 7-Aug-12 @ 5:53 PM
I have a annex built over 15 years ago. it was rented out as a seperate unit and seperate council tax was paid over 5 yrs period and after that period I was issued with a breach of planning law. now I want to make it in a seperate unit. what will be your advice please.
karan - 10-Apr-12 @ 5:06 PM
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