Gibraltar Property Insights

Certificates of Fitness – “Most common cause of delay and added costs”

What is it? 

A Certificate of Fitness (COF) is a document issued by Building Control confirming that the property is fit for occupation in accordance with Building Regulations and the Public Health Act 1954, Sections 44 – 45. In practice, once Building Control Division have consulted with Town Planning, the Environmental Agency and the Fire Safety Department and each department is satisfied with the works from their respective perspectives, a COF would be issued certifying that the property is fit for occupation.

When do you need one?  

A COF is required on completion of most properties here in Gibraltar (the original COF). A new COF is to be obtained if certain works are being carried out to a property. To obtain a COF for new works, the following permissions are required:

  1. Building Control (for any internal layout alterations, e.g. replacing or removal of fire doors with non-fire compliant ones and structural works);
  2. Both Town Planning and Building Control (for any works involving the external works of the property (this includes balcony glass curtains and change of windows) change of use / structural and alterations of the internal layout of the premises, which would include the replacing of Fire Doors); and
  3. The Management Company (if applicable) in accordance with the terms of the lease.

Are there any properties which are exempt from the COF requirement?

Some properties are exempt from the requirement of a COF, such as ex-MOD properties and the Department of Town Planning would be able to advise accordingly.

What happens if a property has either never had a COF or has an existing COF BUT changes have been made to the property?

If an owner has made changes to a property which would require a COF, the owner would have to firstly apply for retrospective planning permission and secondly either for a COF or a Completion of Works Certificate. Again, the Department of Town Planning and Building Control would be able to advise accordingly.

To validate an original/existing COF, owners may have the option to re-instate the property to its original layout to ensure compliance with the original COF.

What are the risks?  

The risks in respect of proceeding without a COF or with an invalid COF include but are not limited to:

  1. a bank may not lend without a valid COF in place;
  2. at the time of a re-sale it will be the owners responsibility to provide the prospective purchaser with a valid COF which to obtain may require carrying out certain works, applying for various permissions and submitting applications, which can become time-consuming and costly; and
  3. domestic home insurance policies, where claims may not be accepted if the COF is not available for alterations that may have been carried out without the relevant approvals/permissions.