I have seen a beautiful Victorian house on the market and I would love to buy it. Recently it has been used for offices, although it's unoccupied at the moment. Is there any reason why I can't convert it back to a family home?
You may need to apply to the local authority for a change of use planning permission in respect of the Victorian house if you wish to change the use from offices (B1(a) use) to residential (C3 use) . A change of use requires planning permission if the change will constitute a material change of use. There is no statutory definition of material change of use which is based on a matter of fact and degree and is determined on individual merits of a case.
Generally when you change the use of a property from one class of use to another, you will need to make an application for planning permission, but there are exceptions. As offices are classed as B1(a) and residential properties are classed as C3, there is a change of classed use. But there are exceptions.
This may fall into the exceptions. You may not require planning permissions but you will have to get prior approval from the local authority for the conversion back to a family home. The factors the local authority will look at when granting prior approval are dependent on the nature of the change of use, and will consider matters relating to parking and highways, flooding, contaminated land and the related surrounding factors of the area in general. Although you do not have to obtain planning permission, just prior approval, the application will also incur a fee, and a lot of paperwork to be submitted to the local authority, for which preparation is key.
The fact that the Victorian house was once a residential home, this should give you encouragement that it is probable that you will be able to convert it back to a family home. However you must be sure that you have the prior approval and make sure the correct paperwork is in place in order to do so.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.