Checking regulations now will save you a lot of pain later
Don't assume that your project will automatically need planning permission. Many alterations do not, but if you are extending your accommodation you should always check this out. The best place to start checking is with your local council building control department. Your architect, surveyor or builder will also be able to advise you or you can contact the Environment and Heritage Service for general information on building regulations and planning.
An early port of call, if you live in Northern Ireland, for any building project is your Local Authority building control department. They can advise you, check your plans and inspect work on site. They employ surveyors with technical expertise and local knowledge, and involving them at the very earliest stage - even before plans and drawings are made - will ensure that your project gets on site faster.
Even if planning permission is not required, projects such as small extensions or minor alterations may require you to submit a Building Regulations application to your local building control department. Your local authority or building control department will let you have the necessary forms.
If you are having work done on a part of your property which adjoins your neighbours you will need to consider the Party Wall Act 1996. This refers to walls that are on boundaries between land in separate ownerships. Before the owner can make changes to a party wall there is a specific legal process, which needs to be followed. If you need advice on party walls make sure that you employ surveyors who have knowledge of this kind of work as it is fairly specialised.
The Northern Ireland Housing Executive does hold a budget for grants and you may be eligible. If you are planning work on a run down or historic property, you may be eligible for financial help. Check with your nearest housing executive office where a range of grants may be available. Not all authorities have the funding and you will probably be means-tested, but if a dwelling is deemed to be in a state of disrepair, you may be in line for financial help.
Although a building may be listed, it will not necessarily qualify for grant aid.