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Thomas, Lawyer
Category: UK Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 7609
Experience:  BA (Hons), PgDip, Practising Solicitor
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Hi, I live in a house in North Devon which was built in 2002.

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Hi, I live in a house in North Devon which was built in 2002. The development of the property was granted planning permission in 2000 but it included a clause that stated that the premises could be used for holiday and recreational purposes only. I myself have now lived here in breach of this condition for three years, as did the previous occupant for five years before that. My question is about immunity from enforcement action, and whether the time limit for change of the use of the building to a residential property is four or ten years. I would be very grateful for any advice on this matter, many thanks.

Thanks for your patience.

Enforcement in this regard is of two types.

The first is the local authority. IT may be that the property and site has planning permission for holiday homes, if this is the case then the use class of it would be. Change of use to residential property can be enforced by the local authority only. They can enforce it for up to four years from the date of the original breach: s171B of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

However, you are also breaching the covenant. The person who originally imposed the covenant is entitled to enforce this against you. They have the benefit of the covenant and it has nothing to do with the town and country planning act above. They can enforce it against you at any time after the four years I’m afraid because there is no time limit on enforcement action in this respect at all.

You may consider getting a restrictive covenant indemnity policy which will cover you against the loss of the original covenantor taking enforcemention action against you, it won’t stop there ability to enforce it but it wil insulate you from loss.

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Kind regards,

Customer: replied 4 years ago.



Thank you for responding to my question, however I would be very grateful if you could explain a couple more things to me. Could you explain what you mean by the covenant. I have the original title deads when the land was bought from the railways board and they state that the property shall not be used for any other purpose than a private dwellinghouse, but there is no mention of a restriction for holiday use. Other houses on the same parcel of land have also since been changed to residential use. My problem is that the local authority have told me that I am in breach of planning by using the property as a residential home, and what I want to know is if this breach, for change of use from a holiday home to a residential home, falls within the four or the ten year time limit for enforcement, as four years will be much easier for me to prove than ten years. Thank you for your help.


Sorry, for some reason I thought you referred to a covenant as well as the planning. Disregard the element of my answer pertaining to covenant enforcement.

The planning department cannot enforce an unauthorised change from another use to residential if the change happened more than 4 years ago. See above statute reference. In all other cases the time limit is ten years but it's only 4 fr residential.

I have to go out of the office for the remainder of the day now. If you have any further questions I will be able to respond at about 6.30-7.

Please remember to rate my answer.

Kind regards,

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you Tom, I think that answers my question and is very helpful indeed. I hope you don't mind my asking one last question, but could you possibly also advise how I can word this in a response to the letter I have received from the local council which stated that I am in breach of planning. It said that I would need to provide evidence of the change of use for the ten years, not four. Thank you very much for your help.


You should simply write back referring to the stature and section that I have mentioned above stating that you have been in there for 4 years (if you have). Do not say anything more than that because you could prejudice yourself unwittingly in future proceedings.

Don't give a specific length of time that you have actually been in there, just say that it is longer than 4 years.

Please rate my answer.

Kind regards,

Thomas and 2 other UK Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

That's brilliant Tom, thank you for your help and taking the time to answer all my questions.

No problem.


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