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  • Writer's pictureNFC Homes

Can you legally live in a commercial property?

Living in a commercial property is something that probably hasn't crossed the minds of the majority of people. However, with residential rentals and sales out of reach for a lot of people - particularly in cities like London - it may seem like an attractive, more affordable option.

Many commercial premises are appealing because they often contain wide, open spaces, which can be moulded into almost any shape or form. Many of them also contain an abundance of natural light and quirky design features.

As a result of the pandemic, there are now many commercial and office spaces just sitting empty - this seems like a waste of space to some people that are finding the cost of living prohibitive. So, you may be thinking... why can't I just move in?

So, can you really live in a disused commercial space?

Sadly, you can't just decide to move into a property that has commercial status. This is primarily because the building insurance of a commercial premises - which is a necessity - will not cover people living in it. If you move into a commercial property with commercial insurance, you will be breaking the law and will be subject to punishment if you are found out.

What if I want to live in a commercial property?

If you've seen a vacant space you like, and you want to live in it, the good news is that it may be possible. However, you will have to apply to change the use of the building from commercial to residential.

Consider what type of building you're applying for if you decide to do this; if you're applying to change a serviced office within a large block, you're probably unlikely to convince the insurance company to change its status. However, if it's a previously-used small retail space within a residential area, you might stand more of a chance.

How do I convert a commercial space into a residential space?

You will likely need planning permission from the local council in order to convert your space into suitable dwellings. The council's local planning authority (LPA) will then make a decision over whether to refuse or grant your application.

You may also benefit from a land valuation to get a true idea of the value of any surrounding commercial land.

How much does it cost to apply to change the use?

Fees for applying to change the use of a property vary, but can cost more than £500 in some areas, such as London. Your LPA is more likely to grant you permission if there are similar successful applications in the area. This isn't the only cost, however; you'll likely need to pay for an architect to draw up proposals, and then you'll have the conversion cost if it is approved.

What is the likelihood of getting the application approved?

You can check previous records on your council's website, and can even search for others within that road. If you find a commercial to residential application that has been successful in your road or area, the closer you stick to this application, the greater your chances will be.

Can I use Permitted Development Rights to move into a commercial property?

In some cases, you will not need planning permission to convert a commercial property into a home. There are a few types of commercial buildings that have Permitted Development Rights (PDR) status, which means they can be converted without permission.

The types of properties that could have a PDR in place including light industrial premises, certain office buildings and retail premises. In many cases, the total floor space should not exceed one hundred and fifty square metres.

Despite not needing planning permission, there may still be certain guidelines that you'll have to stick to when converting a PDR building. You may need to limit windows within your design, and there may be considerations with the privacy of neighbouring buildings.

If you are in doubt, it is always best to speak to your local council and planning authority. They often provide services that advise you of what types of plans and alterations are likely to be approved, saving you time and money.

Is living in a commercial property a good option?

This is an entirely subjective question, and the answer depends on the specific building and the end goal you have in mind. In conclusion, it is important to realise that living in a commercial property is unlikely to be as cheap as it first appears - the conversion could even end up being more expensive.

However, converting a more unusual building into a dwelling can be a great option for those that are looking for a more alternative lifestyle and desire a more unique place to live. If you are thinking of converting a commercial space - do your homework; speak to as many people as you can and make an informed decision.

In short, yes you can live in a commercial property... but only if you convert its status to residential first. If you'd like to discuss how we can help you convert your commercial property into residential property, then get in touch.


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