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HMRC internal manual

VAT Construction

Alterations and repair or maintenance - case law and agreements: roofs

Works that change the structure of a roof, such as the installation of dormer windows or installing a pitched roof where there was previously a flat roof, are ‘approved alterations’.

Changes in material, such as replacing tiles for slates, or type of thatch, are not ‘approved alterations’ unless they are carried out purely for reasons not connected with repair or maintenance.

All other works to roofs, such as changes to the ridge details of thatched roofs, are not ‘approved alterations’ as the works will either be works of repair or maintenance or incidental alterations as a result of carrying out works of repair or maintenance.

There is a great deal of case law in this area but some of the more recent and\or notable cases are:

  • Dodson Bros. (Thatchers) Ltd (VTD 13734): A 200 year old thatched building had an extension to it constructed in the 1950s with a tiled roof. In the 1970s this roof, which was not in a state of disrepair, was replaced with a thatched roof to make it aesthetically in keeping with the rest of the building. The Tribunal held that it was an alteration.
  • Reginald David Bunn (VTD 1467): A slate roof was replaced with a tile roof. The pitch may have been varied to a minor extent. The Tribunal held that it was repair and maintenance.
  • Mr V E A Morris (VTD 1549): The roof had been repaired over the years but the replacement tiles did not match the originals. The appellant was displeased with the appearance of the roof because of the patches of replacement tiles and decided to replace it on aesthetic grounds, with new tiles. The roof was found to be structurally sound at the time the work was carried out. The Tribunal held that it was an alteration.
  • Sutton Housing Trust ([1984] STC 352): The trust owned houses, the roofs of which had deteriorated over the years. The slate tiles and wooden battens were replaced with clay tiles, new battens and felt underlay affecting the appearance of the roofs. The court held it was repair or maintenance. They stated:

    …after the work had been done each house remained essentially the same house, that is to say, a house of the same design with a roof of the same design. There was no substantial alteration or improvement…

  • C N Evans (VTD 4415): Replacement of slate roof, covered with an impervious sealer that prevented air circulation, with new Welsh slate. The Tribunal held that it was an approved alteration.

Comment: The decision in this case was largely based on whether the work was an alteration for planning purposes. As explained at VCONST08470 this is the wrong test and so this decision should not be followed.

  • S H and V S Kain (VTD 12331): A roof thatched with straw was replaced with one thatched with reeds, which are more durable. The Tribunal held that it was repair or maintenance.
  • Windflower Housing Association ([1995] STC 860): A roof that was badly leaking all over was replaced. Modern techniques and materials were used necessitating certain alterations. The court held it was repair or maintenance.
  • Charles Nicholas Foley (VTD 13496): The roof in question had a complicated roof consisting of 14 pitches, most hidden from view. All of them were leaking. Several had collapsed. It was decided to re-roof in tiles similar to the old tiles. It was necessary to raise some of the valleys. It was also necessary to alter the pitches so that there was no capillary action of water. It was also necessary to alter the pitch so as to allow the new tiles to be used. Three broken skylights were taken out and roofed over.

The Tribunal held it was repair or maintenance in part. The replacement or renewal of a tile was repair or maintenance, as was replacing rotten timbers. Changing the height of the ridges, the pitches of the roof slopes and increasing the height of the valleys was not. Apportionment was required.

  • Dodson Brothers (Thatchers) Ltd (VTD 13734): At one house a thatched roof, which would have needed replacing within the next five years, was removed and replaced to allow the installation of a fire barrier. At another house thatch that was only about one quarter of the way through its useful life was leaking round two eyebrow windows. It was decided to replace the whole roof with reed in place of straw. The Tribunal held it was an approved alteration.

Comment: The Tribunal had incorrectly thought that the Tribunal in Kain had allowed the replacement of thatch with that of a different type to be an alteration, so this decision should not be followed.

  • Nicholas Farrah Rhodes (VTD 14533): Over the years most of the original stone tiles of a building constructed in about 1550 had been removed from the roof and replaced with other types of roofing material. As part of the renovation and refurbishment of the building the roof was replaced with stone tiles so as to return it to its original circa 1550 appearance. Immediately before the work began, approximately 65 per cent of the roof was in total disrepair.

However, the front part of the roof, which had been replaced in the 1920s with clay tiles, was said to be in good repair. This part was replaced at the same time for purely aesthetic reasons.

The Tribunal held it was repair or maintenance in part. The replacement of the rear part of the roof was repair and maintenance, but not the replacement of the front part.

  • Logmoor Ltd (VTD 14733): As part of the refurbishment of a dilapidated farmhouse the roof was stripped, re-timbered, re-felted and re-tiled. The Tribunal held it was repair or maintenance.
  • PCC of St. Andrew’s Church, Eakring (VTD 15320): The roof of the church had been replaced about 40 years earlier and had a further life of about 10 years. It was not in disrepair and did not leak. Works to the roof were instigated as a condition of receiving grant aid for works on the church. English heritage required that the membrane roof be replaced with a traditional lead roof. The pitch of the roof was substantially altered. The Tribunal held it was an approved alteration.
  • St Dunstan’s (VTD 17896): A flat roof over the swimming pool in part of a wing at a residential care, respite and rehabilitation centre for the blind was defective and required repair. The whole of the roof of the wing was replaced with two low-pitched roofs, reducing the visual impact of the new roof. The height of the pitch was 2 feet 6 inches. The Tribunal held it was not repair or maintenance.