Have you heard of a FENSA certificate?
If you have been involved in the property investment game for a while you have probably heard this term. In this post I will explain what a FENSA certificate is and why it is important for you to know about it.
All UK property investors should be aware of FENSA certificates because they are important. Things change rapidly in our business and it is essential that you stay on top of these changes to be successful. So let’s take a look at what all of this means to you.
What is a FENSA Certificate?
FENSA is a government self assessment scheme that has been around since 2002. Believe it or not it actually stands for Fenestration Self Assessment Scheme which is a pretty strange acronym I think you would agree.
In response to changes to the building regulations in 2002, the window and door replacement industry introduced the FENSA scheme. The scheme demanded that new window, roof light installation or double glazed door installation comply with the building regulations and had to meet standards for thermal performance.
It is a competent person scheme that provides proof that an installer is competent to perform work that fully complies with the building regulations. When you hire an installer that is FENSA accredited they will provide you with a FENSA certificate when they have completed the work on your property.
In this way you can be sure that any fitted windows, double glazed doors or roof lights comply with the building regulations. You need to be aware that other schemes exist as well such as Certass and it is also possible for building control officers from the local authority to provide certification for installations.
A FENSA installer will not only issue you as the property owner with a FENSA certificate, but they will also register your installation with the local authority. This is helpful as you do not have to do this yourself. The issued FENSA certificate lasts for the lifetime of the installation.
Many FENSA installers will use FENSA certificates as a way of providing the evidence of their installation guarantee. Guarantee periods can vary, but usually a FENSA installer will provide up to a 10 year guarantee that is insurance backed.
What can you do if you did not receive a FENSA Certificate?
Any installer that is a FENSA member should provide you with a FENSA certificate once the installation work is complete. If this didn’t happen for whatever reason, you can go to the official FENSA website and order a copy which at the time of writing this post will cost you £20.
Another useful feature of the FENSA website is that you can use it to check if any property you are thinking about purchasing (or even if you are selling a property) has any FENSA certificates. This is a free service that just requires you to enter the house number and postcode.
Why is FENSA important for Property Investors?
So by now you know what FENSA is and that it provides a guarantee of compliance with building regulations. How does this help you with your property investment business? Well you know that I am a great believer in credibility and attention to detail. For me these things are essential for success as a property investor.
When it comes to selling a property you need to know that most conveyancing solicitors will use a standard form that contains a number of questions. They do this so that they can identify any issues with a property. One question that is very likely to be on this form is “since 2002, have you replaced your windows?”
If your answer to this is “yes” then the conveyance is going to ask you if you have a FENSA certificate for the installation. Having a FENSA certificate is going to make things a lot easier for you to sell the property. Not having a FENSA certificate is likely to cause delays because the conveyance will have to make other checks.
This all adds to your credibility as a property investor. If you are looking to purchase a property then you can ask the same question of the seller. Where there has been a new installation of windows, roof lights or double glazed doors after 2002 there should be a FENSA certificate.
What do you do if there isn’t a FENSA Certificate?
If a property that you are buying or selling does not have a FENSA certificate then here are some of the reasons why this may be the case:
Timing of the installation – if the new windows, double glazed doors or roof lights were installed prior to 1 April 2002 then there is no requirement for the issuing of a FENSA certificate confirming compliance with the regulations. Please not that this also applies if the installation was ordered prior to 1 April 2002 and installed before 30 June 2002.
Other form of certification – as I mentioned earlier, there are alternatives to FENSA certification. It is possible that the windows, doors or roof lights were installed under a different scheme such as Certass. Or a local building control officer could have certified the installation.
No certification – the other possibility is that an installer that was not FENSA certified installed the doors, windows or roof lights. Maybe a local builder installed the windows or even a competent DIY person and there was no certification.
The good news with all of this is that there are a number of solutions when it comes to not having a FENSA certificate. You need to look at these if you find yourself in this situation because a lot of lenders will not offer a mortgage on a property that does not have a FENSA certificate which can affect you whether you are buying or selling.
Conveyancer local authority check – as part of their transaction checks, a conveyancer should check local authority records to see if any information exists. There could be details in the search results that show the method of certification and who performed this.
Local authority certification – if there is no FENSA certificate or any other form of certification then it is possible to arrange an inspection with the local authority so that a building control officer checks the installation to ensure that it is fully compliant with the regulations. They will charge a fee for doing this of course.
Specialist indemnity insurance – the buyer of the property can obtain indemnity insurance from a specialist provider that will cover them for any costs involved in with enforcement action they face against installations that fail to comply with the regulations.
Important note – it is not illegal for you to buy or sell a property that does not fully comply with the Building Regulations. However, it is not the best way to go for a number of reasons which I will explain.
When you buy or sell a property that is not compliant with the Building Regulations it is possible that the company or individual that performed the installation could be the subject of a heavy fine. There are no limits to these fines.
Also the local authority can create an enforcement notice which will force the owner of the property to fix an installation that is not compliant with the regulations. In some cases the local authority can decide to do the remedial work themselves and then force the property owner to pay for this.
If you purchase a new property then there can be a number of issues with the build quality that will not be compliant with the regulations. When buying a new property I would always recommend using the services of a professional snagging company.
Use a FENSA Installer for any new work
If you have a renovation project which requires the installation of new windows, double glazed doors or roof lights then I highly recommend that you go to the FENSA website to find a competent installer.
As an alternative you can ask people that you know to recommend a good FENSA installer to you. Many people in the building trade will know someone and other property investors are likely to know installers as well. Before hiring a FENSA installer I would always recommend that you ask them for references. If someone is recommended to you that is not part of the FENSA scheme then ask them to explain and prove to you how they certify that their work will meet the standards required by the Building Regulations.