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Improvements to your council home

As the tenant of a council property you have the right to carry out some types of home improvement at your own expense, but you must get the written agreement of the council before you start work.

Improvements you will need permission for include:

  • erecting any external satellite, microwave, telephone, radio, TV or CB receiver
  • installing new flooring e.g. fitting a laminate floor
  • changing kitchen or bathroom fittings like sinks, baths or toilets
  • Installing central heating or any other form of heating system/appliance
  • erecting a garage, car port or conservatory
  • knocking down walls
  • putting in double glazing
  • anything which affects the gas, electricity or water supply to your home
  • any work which needs planning permission or building control approval

Any communal areas around your home such as gardens, drying areas, stairs and landings must not be altered, enclosed or partitioned. You may be charged if you do this.

We have an improvement programme, so you should check to see whether your home is included in this before you decide to do the work yourself. Call 0344 980 3333 to find out more.

Getting permission

You must get written permission from us before carrying out work. We will only refuse permission with good reason, such as if the work:

  • would interfere with any maintenance to the property
  • may reduce the value of the property
  • may cause a potential health and safety risk
  • would breach any regulatory requirements
  • may result in any additional cost to the council
  • is to remove any amenities within the property that the council provided to make the property suitable for occupants with a specific medical need (such as a level access shower)
  • may adversely affect the wall or boundary between this property and the next door neighbour’s property
  • is to install a solid fuel heating appliance, or to open up a fireplace

We can lay down reasonable conditions before giving permission for the work to start. For example, ensuring that the work will be carried out by a qualified and approved contractor and perhaps asking for drawings and/or plans.

We may ask you to provide the name of the contractor and their public liability insurance number before giving permission for the work to go ahead. You may also be asked to return to the council any appliances, fixtures or fittings removed as part of the work.

You must not arrange for any work to start before you have received written permission from the council. If you carry out work without our written permission and do not comply with any conditions imposed you will be charged for putting the work right and/or for removing any unapproved appliances, such as a solid fuel appliance. You may also be charged for any other associated costs.

Planning permission

Some types of improvement may also need planning permission – porches, garages, sheds, extensions, satellite dishes and even fencing might need permission. Extra planning restrictions apply if you live in a conservation area.

The customer contact team and property services team will give you advice but it is your responsibility to establish if planning permission is required before any work takes place. If planning permission is needed, you will have to make a separate application and pay a fee. If you are not sure, contact our planning department.

Building regulations

Improvements may need building control approval, whether planning permission is needed or not. This is to ensure good construction standards.

Please ask building control for advice as it is your responsibility to establish if building regulation approval is required before any work takes place. If you are not sure, ask first.

Party Wall Act

Work on party walls and boundaries may be subject to the Party Wall Act.

Use a competent contractor

Any work you undertake is done at your own risk. Make sure that you use a competent contractor with adequate insurance cover. You will be expected to put right any work that has not been done properly and without the relevant permissions.

If you use a contractor who is not properly qualified you are putting yourself and any visitors to your home at risk. In addition, if we have to rectify any work for health and safety reasons (for example any gas or electrical work) you will be charged. You may be asked to provide Completion and/or Building Control certification, issued to you by your competent contractor, for your improvement/alteration. 

If you do improvement work without permission you may have to pay a charge to us. You will also be charged if the work causes damage to the property, if work is left unfinished or if our standards of work are not met.

When the work is finished

You must contact the property services team on 0344 980 3333 when the work has been completed. You will then be contacted by one of our building surveyors who will if necessary arrange a mutually convenient time to call and inspect the work.

The cost of improvements

Improving your home can be expensive. As well as the materials and the work, there may be running costs.

Don’t forget to increase your home contents insurance to cover the value of new fittings and to give you protection if there is any damage to a neighbour’s property (for example,if your new central heating leaks)

As long as you have written agreement from us for your improvement, we will repair and maintain some new equipment, such as boilers (after the guarantee expires), if these are things it has a duty to maintain as part of its normal repairs service. You must keep your written agreement.

Your rent will not change if you make improvements to your council home and it may not change if someone succeeds to your tenancy, for example, if a member of your family takes over the tenancy in the future.

When you leave

If you give up your tenancy you must leave behind anything you have installed or fitted.

If you want to take something, which is moveable, you must restore things to how they were before and redecorate to our standards.

You will be charged for any restoration work we have to do. Secure tenants have a right to claim compensation for some improvements made at their own expense, after 1 April 1994. Compensation is payable only when you end your tenancy and is based on the original cost and age of the improvement. Ask the customer contact team for details of qualifying improvements before you make your claim.

You must claim no more than 28 days before or 14 days after your tenancy ends. You will need to provide invoices for the work done. Compensation for improvements made before April 1994 is paid at our discretion.


Write to Property Services (at City Hall, Norwich NR2 1NH) providing as much detail as possible about the work you want to do. If appropriate, include drawings showing any extensions or changes to the layout of the property.

Check whether:

  • planning permission is needed by contacting our planning services on 0344 980 3333
  • building control approval is needed by contacting the CNC Building Control Consultancy on 01603 430100
  • you need to serve a Party Wall Notice as part of the consultation with your neighbours
  • the tradesmen you intend to use to do the work are properly qualified

Let us know when the work is completed. A project surveyor may want to call and inspect the work.