If you are looking to get into property development or investment, you need to be familiar with the acronym FENSA. In this guide, we’ll explain what they are and why they matter, so you can head into this new venture fully prepared.
What does FENSA stand for?
The acronym FENSA stands for Fenestration Self Assessment Scheme. This was an initiative that originally came from the window and door replacement industry to meet the requirements of the new building regulations act, which came into force in April 2002. The new standards dictated that new double glazed windows, doors or skylights must meet the strict regulations and comply with minimum thermal performance standards.
What is a FENSA Certificate?
To use the technical jargon, FENSA is a Competent Person Scheme. Essentially, it is evidence that installers have the necessary skills to carry out work that meets the strict standards of building regulations.
Most installers join the FENSA scheme and issue FENSA Certificates to their clients to demonstrate that their products are compliant with the relevant standards. There are other schemes that do the same thing, such as Certass, and building control officers from local authorities can be brought in to certify a new installation.
FENSA installers will provide property owners with a FENSA Certificate and register the new installation with the relevant local authority. They do this on behalf of the owner to save them the trouble of doing it themselves. The certificate remains valid for as long as the new windows and/or doors last.
In many cases, a FENSA Certificate is used as evidence of a guarantee. FENSA installers are able to provide an insurance-backed guarantee of up to 10 years.
How do I obtain a copy of a FENSA Certificate?
An original installer who is part of the FENSA scheme should always issue a FENSA Certificate to the property owner when new windows or doors are installed. If they didn’t issue the certificate, or the certificate has been lost, a new copy can be ordered from the FENSA website, here, for a fee of £25.
That same website can also be used to check if a property you are looking to buy or sell has FENSA certificates. All you need is the property’s postcode and house number, and it doesn’t cost anything to perform a search.
What does a FENSA Certificate mean for buying and selling properties?
When a property is being sold, the conveyancers assigned to the transaction will issue a standard form to the seller, asking a number of questions about the property. The purpose of this is to check the status of the property and identify any causes for concern. Among the questions on the form, there will be something along the lines of “Have you replaced any windows, roof lights or glazed doors since 1 April 2002?”
If the answer to this question is “Yes”, the conveyance may go on to ask for a FENSA Certificate or its equivalent. If one is readily available, it will help the process move forward smoothly. If not, there may be a delay to the sale as further enquiries are made.
What if I don’t have a FENSA Certificate?
There can be several possible reasons for a property to not have a FENSA Certificate:
- If the installation was carried out before 1 April 2002 (or ordered before then but completed before 30 June) it is not required to have a FENSA Certificate to prove it meets Building Regulations.
- If the installation was completed after April 2002, it may have been certified under another scheme, or by the Building Control Officer. Otherwise, it could be that it was never certified at all, meaning the installer did not have the work certified.
If you don’t have a FENSA certificate, there are several possible solutions. It doesn’t automatically make the property unmortgageable.
- The conveyancer can do a search with the local authority, which they will do as part of the transaction anyway. This might reveal whether the installation was certified, and who certified it.
- You could arrange for the Building Control Officer to visit and certify the installation (provided everything is up to the necessary standard). There is a fee for this, however.
- A buyer can take out indemnity insurance from a specialist insurer. With this in place, the cost of enforcement action will be covered in the event that the work fails to meet the Building Regulations Standards.
It is not illegal for a property that doesn’t comply with building regulations to be bought or sold.
In fact, it is not uncommon for new build houses to contain a number of problems with the build and finish. This is why it is often recommended to enlist the services of a snagging company to compile a list of ‘snagging’ issues that the property developer must address.
However, though there is no law against selling a property that doesn’t comply with the regulations, the individual or company that carried out the work can be issued with an unlimited fine. The local authority can also apply an enforcement notice that compels the property owner to correct the work that isn’t up to standard. They may even do the work themselves, at the owner’s expense.
How to find a competent installer
Finally, if you are considering having new windows, doors or skylights installed in an investment property, you will want to have a FENSA installer do the work. You can easily find a list of FENSA installers by looking on the FENSA website
Additionally, it is also wise to ask friends, contacts and other tradespeople for recommendations to help make sure you get a trustworthy installer. When you do contact an installer, you may want to ask them for references and quiz them on what scheme they use to certify their work. It is important to ensure that new installations comply with Building Regulations, so don’t be afraid to do your homework.