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On completion

champagneNo, a selfbuild house never seems complete, but at the stage commonly called practical completion various things come into effect:

  • Obviously you yourself want be satisfied with the completed work.
  • Building Control, who govern how a house is constructed, can issue a completion certificate. See below.
  • Your architect can issue a certificate of completion. See below
  • Your lender (if you have one) needs to be satisfied about releasing final payments. They may require either of the two above or they may want to rely on a surveyor’s report (usually a surveyor who they nominate and you pay for)
  • You can pay off your builder (but probably keep some retention money (see below)
  • The NHBC (Solo) insurance (if you opt for this cover) comes into effect on completion and lasts for ten years. Same if you choose the Build Zone warranty
  • Building site insurance can cease on completion and normal building insurance take over
  • VAT can probably be claimed on completion. See more
  • An EPC is required
  • note that the Home Information Pack requirement has been suspended.

Completion certificates

Building Control and Building Standards can issue a completion certificate providing the various stages of inspection have gained approval. This certificate may be required by your lender, solicitor or if you sell the house on in future. It shows that the main stages of the building works have been completed so far as can be reasonably ascertained by a building inspector. The Benchmark certification system is also included in this.

The certificate does not guarantee that there are no hidden problems and it is not insurance cover. If you were to sell the house on some time after completion then usually this certificate is what the buyer would ask to see, probably along with an up to date surveyor’s report.

In Scotland, prior to the occupation of a new property a ‘habitation certificate’ needs to be issued by Building Standards. This would be in the form of either a Temporary Occupation/Use Certificate or Certificate of Completion. (It is an offence to occupy a building without one or the other).

Your architect (if you use one) can issue a ‘practical completion certificate’ when the job is finished. This may be all your lender needs to release a final stage payment of the mortgage. This certificate basically states that the building has been completed according to the plans and is usually based on visits made by the architect during the building work. It does not imply that there are no hidden defects which might come to light later and it is not the same as insurance cover such as is provided by an NHBC certificate.

Retention money
It is normal, on small domestic scale building contracts, to withhold 5% of the payment due to the builder for a period of 6 months, or occasionally one year, after practical completion. This is usually known as the defects liability period. At the end of the period a schedule of defects is drawn up, the builder makes good any defects and then your architect (if you use one) issues a Certificate of Making Good Defects. The builder is then paid off in full. This all needs agreeing beforehand with the builder, usually in the form of a written contract.


It may be that by the end of the job you are involved in a dispute with your builder. See Disputes

Log book and instructions

Caves were not very technical but modern houses can be. When the power goes off or a burst pipe sprays water over your computer it pays to have instructions about how to handle it. There are various ways of doing this but remember that a computer may not be of much help. Probably the best way is to have all the information collected in a ring binder (along with logs of service intervals etc.) and then to also have individual instruction sheets in laminated covers, discreetly situated near the relevant appliances such as boilers, consumer units, broadband connections, fire alarms etc.

1 comment to On completion

  • Gavin

    Hello SBC,

    I am fast approaching (I hope) the start of a new build and have some questions that I would like to ask.

    1, I may project manage myself and as such will get the various contractors to site as and when. The warranty companies that I have contacted (it would of course be useful to have a warranty at the end of the build) appear to hike the premiums considerably if the build does not have a main contractor. Is a warranty at the end of the build that essential? Any advice on this would be much appreciated?

    2, The project is a large detached home (5 bedroom etc….). It is just for my wife and I and as such we only really require a few rooms to be functional before we move in i.e. the ability to run hot water, be able to cook and to have some heating. We have a nest egg which we hope will get us at least this far. We then plan to finish the project over time as and when our income allows i.e. taking one room at a time. We are going to use a private Building Control company.

    What is required for the project to be designated as complete?

    If we are living there in the semi-complete house what is required of us for council tax?

    What completion certificates are actually required and from what trades / contractors?

    Claiming back the VAT on suitable expenditure will of course provide a useful lump sum but what documentation do I need to provide (other than VAT receipts). I assume a whole host of completion certificates?

    Again any advice would be great?

    Thanks, Gavin.

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