Buildings, Bats and the Law
The laws protecting bats and their breeding sites and the penalties for breaking them.
The laws protecting bats
Building professionals, contractors, owners or managers of old buildings are very likely to encounter bats. All species of bat, their breeding sites and resting places are strictly protected in England under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations (2017).
It is illegal to kill or injure bats, disturb them or to obstruct or destroy their roosts (even if the bats are not inside at the time).
Having bats in a building does not necessarily mean that you cannot carry out building or repair works. However, you will need to carefully plan and execute the work, and seek advice at the earliest stages of the project design. Later sections of our guidance explain more.
Penalties for breaking the laws
Breaking these laws could incur an unlimited fine and/or up to six months in prison and forfeiting the equipment used to commit the crime. Recent bat crime cases have also involved Proceeds of Crime Act confiscations, where any savings made from not following legal processes are paid to the courts by the offender.
When old buildings are protected by law
Many old buildings are protected by law, and are designated as listed buildings or scheduled monuments. It is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine or a prison sentence, to carry out unauthorised work to a designated building. As well as legal costs, you may also be required to reverse all unauthorised alterations.