People buying a property which has bats in residence should consider carefully if they can live alongside their nocturnal friends as their presence could reduce the amount of renovation work that can be done to a property warns Suzanne Bowman, Associate at Adams & Remers LLP.
Suzanne Bowman comments : “Many people assume that they can buy a property and start work straight away but they often don’t realise that the presence of bats can halt or significantly slow down works which are planned for a property. Bats are protected by law and it is an offence for anyone to intentionally kill, injure or capture/handle a bat or to disturb a roosting bat – even if this is done unintentionally which could result in imprisonment and or a large fine”.
People planning to buy a historic house or building need to consider any changes they plan to make especially those that would not normally require planning consent or Listed Building consent so they do not fall foul of the rules protecting bats.
Suzanne continues : “Insensitive installation of flood lighting for example could adversely affect bats causing a disturbance to a roost and therefore committing an offence. Also spraying roof timbers to deal with invasive beetles would also be a problem unless it is not intrusive and the products used are those specified as suitable by Natural England”.
Owners and prospective property owners should therefore be ‘bat aware’ and assume that bats may roost for some or all of the year in the building.
Suzanne continues : “By taking the initiative and assuming bats are in situ you can avoid a lot of problems. Speak with Natural England and get advice – they can arrange an inspection by a local bat volunteer. They will be able to advise you on whether bats are roosting at the site and therefore if the work you plan to do will be possible. If there is a roost they will advise you on the best time and method to undertake the works if disturbance can be avoided. You may be advised to employ a bat consultant and apply for a licence for work that will inevitably disturb or injure bats – ie. roof repairs that have to be carried out. This may take a couple of months to deal with.
“The licence is important because it will permit work which would otherwise be an offence but will take time to arrange and may also contain fairly stringent conditions about how the works are carried out when and by whom. The licence may also specify the types of materials to be used”.
Suzanne concludes : “Bats shouldn’t necessarily be a deal breaker when buying a property but every home owner should be aware of their responsibilities towards them”.