How to renovate a house or cottage

Have you bought an older cottage or house and are planning to turn it into an awesome residence, whether for weekends or permanent living?

detail na opravu střechy
7 minutes of reading

If it seems more practical to demolish the old house and buildeverything on greenfield land“, be careful whether this is legally possible at all. Many properties are listed, or just located in a conservation area. In this case, demolition will not be permitted by the relevant authorities. There will be no choice but to embark on reconstruction. The latter may also be preferable due to local regulations, where the new building might not be given the same opportunities as the existing property.

Before renovating an older house, the first thing to check is whether planning permission will be needed for the alterations. This information can be obtained from the relevant building authority or a solicitor can advise. This will tell you whether you will need a planning permission, a building permit or whether it will be sufficient to report the building. In order to successfully complete the building procedure, it is also necessary to obtain building documentation (project). The builder should have all rights, including copyright, transferred to him by the designer, so that he can then modify the project as necessary or sell it to someone else, for example to a person who has bought the property and wants to complete the building according to the original design.

A planning permission will be needed especially in cases where the floor plan of the building is to be changed or the height of the building is to be altered. The building authority assesses the impact of the building on the surroundings and landscape in the planning procedure. For example, you will not be allowed to build a tower block in a small village.

Abuilding permit is generally needed when interfering with load-bearing structures, which may affect the stability of the larger structure, fire safety or the appearance of the whole building, as well as when interfering with utilities (gas, water, electricity), etc. A building permit is also needed if we are reconstructing, extending or deepening a well.

If a less radical reconstruction is planned, where the supporting structures will not be affected, the wiring will not be changed, and the appearance of the house or cottage will not change significantly (for example, demolition of non-load-bearing partitions and building new ones), only the notification of construction is sufficient. This is a simpler process compared to the procedure for issuing a building permit. The builder fills in the prescribed form, adds the prescribed annexes and submits the building notification to the competent building authority. There, officials will only check whether the notification is sufficient for the construction and, if so, the builder will receive approval to carry out the notified construction. If the notification is not sufficient for a particular building (for example, the builder has not provided the neighbours’ consents for the building), the building authority will decide to carry out a conventional building procedure and then either issue or not issue a building permit.

In this context, it is necessary to draw the attention not only of our Prague readers to other possible restrictions. Typically, these are the Prague building regulations and the so-called traffic calm rule. Simply put, this requires that adequate parking spaces must always be provided. This affects house extensions in built-up areas, loft conversions, etc. It is possible to apply for an exemption from it, but there is no legal entitlement. The Transportation Department hasn’t liked any exemptions lately. Yet, objectively, it is often not possible to create a parking space, except perhaps by leasing a nearby private parking lot.

However, even officials are human and the law sometimes does not give a clear line, so each building department may treat the same submissions differently. It can easily happen that the same reconstruction will be only for notification at one building authority, while at another a planning permission will be needed.

It follows from all this that maintenance work or building alterations can be carried out without any notification to the building authority as long as they cannot adversely affect the health of persons, fire safety, stability, appearance of the building, the environment or safety in use and are not maintenance work or building alterations on a cultural monument.

The Czech Republic is a country with an extraordinary cultural heritage. That is why, in addition to cultural monuments, we have conservation zones and conservation reserves. These are landscape units that are under the protection of the National Heritage Institute. A binding opinion is then required for any building alterations or repairs. Before a builder starts to think about how to improve his house, he should consult with the conservation authorities so that he does not spend unnecessary energy and time planning alterations that the conservation authorities will not allow. It is typically a problem in listed buildings to install modern plastic windows, to insulate the outside of the house, or to paint the house with a blatantly obvious colour. However, people’s tastes in this area are beginning to change and the number of people who want to save money at all costs is decreasing, so battles with conservationists tend to happen when they behave irrationally. Of course, the reconstruction of a listed property can cost a lot of money in the end, which is why the state, regions or sometimes municipalities offer various subsidy programs to support the preservation of historic buildings.

Contract for work

We will draw up a contract for the work or check the existing one. This way you can be sure that the delivery of the work will be legally sound and free from ambiguity. We will resolve the matter quickly, no matter where you are from in the country. You can pay after the service has been provided.

Similar restrictions await you if you want to undertake alterations or maintenance work on a house in a Conservation Area or National Park and their protection zones. Anyone wishing to carry out any building work (e.g. extensions, additions, alterations to buildings) must therefore apply to the local authority for a binding opinion. These institutions protect the appearance of the landscape in the area and often issue guides on how the development should look. For example, in a mountainous environment that boasts grassy meadows with timbered houses, a newly built glass modern house would be a feather in the cap. Restrictions apply to all sorts of things, such as roofing colour, plaster colour, dormer shapes, building heights, windows and other features. As with listed buildings, it is advisable to consult the conservation officers before making alterations.

Download the free e-book 5 Tips to Buy or Sell Property Risk-Free and go smoothly through the process of selling or buying a house, flat and land.

We prepared this article for the Lidové noviny series “Law & Housing”. See also other articles from the series:

  1. What to look out for when buying a property
  2. How to get a mortgage
  3. What to check before buying a property
  4. Who pays the property transfer tax and how?
  5. What should be included in the property purchase contract
  6. The most common mistakes when drafting a proposal to the Land Registry
  7. Buying a property from a developer
  8. Keeping the purchase price when buying a property
  9. The difference between a condominium and a freehold
  10. What is an annuity?
  11. How to properly gift a property
  12. What is the purpose of an easement or servitude?
  13. Making a will and settling an estate
  14. What is a collation
  15. What shouldn’t be missing in a lease agreement
  16. When rent increases can be made
  17. Termination of the lease
  18. Agreement to end the tenancy
  19. How to draw up a work contract with a tradesman
  20. Hidden defects and cancellation of a works contract
  21. When do you need planning permission to renovate a property?
  22. Home Rules
  23. What does serving on a condominium board entail?
  24. Why not underestimate the bylaws in a condominium
  25. Common areas in a block of flats
  26. What is involved in refurbishing a block of flats
  27. Can a condominium or housing association go into debt?
  28. How to renovate a house or cottage
  29. What to watch out for when dealing with a construction “company”?
  30. Building a house on a “green field”
  31. How to remove land from the agricultural fund

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Author of the article

JUDr. Ondřej Preuss, Ph.D.

Ondřej is the attorney who came up with the idea of providing legal services online. He's been earning his living through legal services for more than 10 years. He especially likes to help clients who may have given up hope in solving their legal issues at work, for example with real estate transfers or copyright licenses.

  • Law, Ph.D, Pf UK in Prague
  • Law, L’université Nancy-II, Nancy
  • Law, Master’s degree (Mgr.), Pf UK in Prague
  • International Territorial Studies (Bc.), FSV UK in Prague

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