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Ten laws first-time buyers might not realise they’re breaking

When you’re a new home owner, there are many things that you might be concerned about. The cost of furniture, changing your routine, making sure that you’ve notified everyone about your changing address, and even moving away from friends and family.

An online property auction can help to alleviate some of the common stresses of traditional house purchases. Those who buy at auction often have no risk of gazumping, or a deal falling through because the chain has collapsed. It’s also quick and reliable, whether you opt for a Timed Auction, tune into one of our live-streamed Auction Events or choose a “Buy it Now” option.

However if you’re a new home owner, like the 408,000 Brits in 2021, there are a few laws that you might not have realised you could be breaking – or risk getting fined for.

And even if you have owned your house for 20 years, some of these laws might surprise you.

At SDL Property Auctions, we have put together a list of ten laws that you might be falling foul of, just so you can enjoy your new abode with a few less worries.

1 – Putting your bins too far onto the pavement

The government can issue fixed penalties if a homeowner puts their bins out in a way that can cause obstruction to your neighbours. This includes placing your bin too far out onto the pavement, so that it impedes the natural flow of pedestrians walking. For example, if someone in a wheelchair or pushing a pram would have to walk onto the road because of the placement of your bin.

Similarly, if you’re prone to forgetting bin day and so want to put your bins out early to avoid a week without collection – think again. It’s better to set a reminder or alarm to remind yourself – or you risk a fixed penalty fine

2 – Arguing too loudly

When moving to a new property, it’s natural to feel pressure in order for everything to go smoothly. In fact, buying a property was recently rated as life’s most stressful event in the UK, above COVID, driving tests, divorce and having a child.

If you’re feeling tension within your family, resulting in an argument, be careful not to raise your voices. Community Protection Notices (CPNs) can be issued by local councils if a resident is accused of disrupting their neighbours’ everyday lives. Fines of up to £5,000 can be imposed on individuals under the Noise Act 1996, as the local authority has an obligation to deal with noise which may be deemed a nuisance, such as loud shouting or in some rare cases, loud crying.

If you’re worried about the stress that can come with purchasing a house, buying a property at an auction can help to alleviate some of the common stresses of buying via the traditional treaty methods, including the fact that you can often move into the property faster.

Similarly, many people who purchase a home at auction often decide to do so as they want a renovation project, so be wary of any noise that may come from any equipment such as drills and hammers.

3 – Your kids playing knock door run

If your children make friends in your neighbourhood, they’re likely to want to head outdoors in summer and play with each other. However, make sure that they’re not tempted to play “knock door run” (also referred to as “knock down ginger”)) – the act of knocking on a neighbour or strangers’ door and running away before they open the door.

As part of Section 54 of the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, every person who ‘shall wilfully disturb any inhabitant by pulling or ringing any door-bell or knocking at any door without lawful excuse’ can be landed with a £500 fine.

4 – Forgetting to change your address on your driver’s licence

There are often dozens of companies you will need to notify when you move to tell them of your change of address – but make sure the DVLA doesn’t slip off your list. A fine of up to £1,000 can be imposed upon you if you’re stopped by traffic police or hire a car and the address doesn’t match up.

5 – Having a messy garden

Is your primary focus for the first few months after moving in on improving the interiors of your home? Make sure you don’t neglect your garden. While it’s still within your own property, if a neighbour complains about a front or back garden that is “detrimental to the amenity of the neighbourhood”, you could be fined. This is under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, Section 215 which states that councils have the power to require proper maintenance of land.

This was recently highlighted when one man was fined £5,000 by Bromley Council after allegedly ignoring complaints from his neighbours to remove fridges, furniture and other items from his front garden. 

As mentioned above, renovations are often popular purchases by those who purchase at auction. If you’ve recently moved into a property which you want to transform, you might want to first ensure that the garden is free of clutter before focusing elsewhere.

6 – Not nominating a key holder for your burglar alarm

When you move to a new home and area, security is likely to be one of your main priorities. However, before installing your burglar alarm, setting it and heading out, make sure that you’ve nominated a key holder.

It’s illegal to activate your home alarm without nominating one. According to the Sentencing Council, failure to do this can see you fined a minimum of £50.

This is to deter a house alarm from going off and causing a nuisance on the street if nobody is available to turn it off. The key holder should not be someone who lives in the property, but does hold keys to the premise, and have sufficient information to silence the alarm. We recommend that as soon as you install a burglar alarm, you nominate at least two key holders. Your local police force should have a section on its website to enable you to register their contact details.

7 – Setting off fireworks at night for your birthday

In the summer, it can take a while for the sky to get dark enough for you to see fireworks in all their glory. But if you’re considering having a celebration for a birthday or anniversary and setting off fireworks, make sure you don’t set them off too late during your evening celebration.

It’s illegal to set off fireworks between 11pm and 7pm except for:

  • Bonfire Night, when the cut off is midnight
  • New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year, when the cut off is 1am

It’s wise to always check your council first to find out about any local rules for setting off fireworks. According to the government website, you can be fined an unlimited amount or even face imprisonment for up to six months for selling or using fireworks illegally.

8 – Decorating your home recklessly

As events like Halloween, Christmas and New Year’s creep up, you might be planning a party for your friends and family. However, make sure that any decorations you add to your home do not cause any obstruction or present a possible hazard to your guests.

If someone has an accident because of the way that you have decorated your property, you could be dealt with a fine of up to £5,000 under the Occupier’s Liability Act 1957 and Occupier’s Liability Act 1984. This could include lanterns placed on the stairs which could be a trip hazard, or bunting which is hanging too low, and close to candles.

9 – Painting your front door

Auctions can be goldmines for renovation opportunities, with everything from former police stations to homes constructed out of train carriages.

Whether it’s a doer-upper or just needs a personal touch, you’re likely going to want to make a few changes to your abode. But if you own a leasehold property, you need to be fully clued up on the amends that you can make to your house.

For example, if you own a flat, the leaseholderleasehold will often have rules about what you can and cannot do with the property. The lease will contain details regarding changes that you may want to make to your property, and you may find that some of these are forbidden.

10 – Be wary of the height of your shed

While you can be fined for having a messy garden, you could also run the risk of falling foul of the law if you’re renovating your outdoor space. Whether you want a garden office for your new remote working lifestyle or have decided to treat yourself to a new shed, it’s always worth double checking if planning permission is required.

Usually, you won’t need any planning permission for an outbuilding such as a playhouse, shed or sauna cabin, however if it’s any higher than 2.5 metres, you will need planning permission. This is because it can cause your neighbours to feel that they’re lacking privacy or block the natural light into their garden.

Moving house should be an exciting time – especially if it’s your first home purchase. But make sure that you’re following the appropriate laws, to save yourself a headache and enjoy your new abode. If you’re in the market for a new house and want to explore your options, take a look at our Property Finder to discover the properties available nearby to you.