To buy a house with old uncertified loft conversion?

by Readers Question

14:00 PM, 1st September 2014
About 4 years ago

To buy a house with old uncertified loft conversion?

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To buy a house with old uncertified loft conversion?

I need some advice about buying a house with an uncertified loft conversion please. To buy a house with old uncertified loft conversion?

It’s advertised as a 3-bed house with a “converted attic room used as the third bedroom”. It has been let for several years. The loft conversion was done before the current seller bought the house in 2007. I have asked for documentation about the construction and any buildings regs inspection for the loft conversion and received none. Upon pressing for this the estate agent said that the conversion was done before certification was required, but has conceded that the loft is not legally classed as a bedroom for sales purposes.

Even if I were to make an offer based on a 2-bed house, I am still concerned about the effects of the conversion on the structure, insulation, safety, etc, of the rest of the house and would be inclined to have a full structural survey done, if I were to make an offer to buy this property. This would require lifting of boarding on walls and floor, at the least.

Would I have to get permission from the seller to do such uncovering works?

I have to apply for a mortgage for this purchase. Would lenders be likely to lend for this, and would I be able to re-negotiate my offer price if a survey revealed concerns?

I am not eager to incur legal and mortgage application fees if the outcome is likely to be unfavourable, or that the purchase would be a major millstone round my neck.

Thank you

Jane



Comments

Mark Alexander

14:04 PM, 1st September 2014
About 4 years ago

Hi Jane

I think the idea of getting a structural survey is a good one but you will need to get the vendors permission given the invasive nature of the required inspection.

The vendor is likely to run into this problem with any buyer so may well be prepared to pay for the survey and even to take advice from his own solicitors regarding the purchase of an indemnity policy in respect of the planning and building regs work. If not, then I'd walk away if I was you.

I may even be the case, especially if he got a mortgage, that all of the above was done back in 2007 when he purchased the property. He may simply have forgotten that detail.

Good luck!
.

Steven Way

15:13 PM, 1st September 2014
About 4 years ago

"conversion was done before certification was required" when was that then? Building Reg approval has been required for work like this since at least 1965. You may be able to get an indemnity policy but I would get a surveyor to look at it too, quite apart from the structural aspect what about staircase design, fire safety and fire separation.

Its not all bad though, its quite possible that the job was done to a satisfactory standard bu you will need a surveyor to tell you this, it may of course come up again at any future resale.

r01

17:26 PM, 1st September 2014
About 4 years ago

I bought a bungalow around two and a half years ago which had a loft conversion and no building control cert. The work was done in the late 1970's.

Never, ever trust a solicitor as the property sold in the 1980's and the solicitors for the then purchasers never pointed out the lack of a completion cert. So, the seller I bought it from had no idea and had a number of potential buyers drop out.

A visit to the building control department sorted it out for me as with the sellers agreement, they visited the property and gave it a clean bill of health and issued the retrospective cert for free as it turned out the idiot builder that did the work simply forgot to have the final completion inspection. Fortunately the inspector was able to find some notes on an inspection during the build that referred to the stairway width being required to be increased, so it was obvious that the other work was satisfactory as the stairs were already installed. I did also make a point of crawling in the attic space to ensure that RSJ's were in place. I suggest if you want to proceed, the first thing you do is visit the local council building control to see if they are aware of anything as it might be a similar situation - who knows?

If you have any doubts either get a structural survey done (if you are prepared to pay that much on the off-chance the deal won't fall through anyway), or walk away and avoid any hassle.

A WARNING...... As soon as a building cert is issued the Valuations office are notified and at the completion of the very next purchase (you purchasing it), they will call and re-value the property. My rateable value shot up into the next band and whilst I've made the property easier to sell, I'm having to pay for it... Bah Humbug.....

R

Joe Bloggs

9:32 AM, 2nd September 2014
About 4 years ago

'the purchase of an indemnity policy in respect of the planning and building regs work.'
SUCH POLICIES ARE PRETTY USELESS IN THIS SCENARIO. THEY WILL OBVIOUSLY PROVIDE NO COVER AGAINST DIABOLICAL WORKMANSHIP OR MATERIALS, WHICH MAY VERY WELL BE THE CASE HERE. I WOULD WANT A HUGE DISCOUNT TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THE COST OF DOING THE WORK TO BUILDING REGS. YOU WILL ALSO PROB NEED AN HMO LICENCE AS ITS 3 STOREYS AND THAT MAY BE REFUSED IF THE CONVERSION IS WELL BELOW STANDARD.

Renovate To let

16:22 PM, 2nd September 2014
About 4 years ago

Indemnity policies cover you against local authority enforcement (unlikely given the age of the conversion) but don't mitigate safety or fire issues nor do they magically make the house able to be insured either.

Most insurance policies demand that any alterations have both planning consent and are covered by building control completion certificates. If they aren't then a claim could be refused.....imagine if that claim was for the future earnings of a tenant badly injured by a fall down the inadequate stairs from the "room used as a bedroom" or from a fire up there from which there was no compliant escape route.

The seller can apply for regularisation through building control - they will inspect and provide a list of works needed to gain a completion certificate. I would call building control anyway as it MIGHT be that this has been done before and the owner decides not to spend the money needed to complete the list of required changes.

Alternatively, buy the house as-is with a loft (because that's what it still is). Just make sure that no tenant is able to use it as a habitable room.....(this in itself is not 100% straightforward as, if you grant a tenancy with parts of the house excluded, technically council tax is payable by the landlord - although the AST could give you the right to recover it from the tenant).

Renovate To let

16:26 PM, 2nd September 2014
About 4 years ago

The building control officer will need to see into the structure to be able to check for insulation and for joist strengthening (among other things) so disruption will be required. There also may be a list of fire protection requirements for the lower floors too in order to secure the exit route.

Jane Reckless

14:17 PM, 4th September 2014
About 4 years ago

Many thanks to each of you for your invaluable comments. It has been so good to get your views on different aspects of this issue. Sounds like a call to building control is the next step, but I might possibly run a mile first!

Interesting that no-one commented on the estate agents advertising this as a '3-bed house'. The letting agents include the lounge and advertise it as having 4 bedrooms! Magic.

David Mensah

12:28 PM, 6th September 2014
About 4 years ago

I am also curious about the liability of the estate agents advertising this as a 3-4 bedroom house when it isn't. Presumably the "“converted attic room used as the third bedroom" is language that covers them?

Any estate agents willing to comment on this?

Neil Robb

21:12 PM, 6th September 2014
About 4 years ago

Hi

I thought if the work was carried out quite a few years back there would be exempt from needing a certificate. Not sure of the dates. But I was told by my solicitor recently if the work had been carried out x years back the council could not enforce a judgement. This is in Northern Ireland not sure about England.

Joe Bloggs

10:03 AM, 7th September 2014
About 4 years ago

concern about any enforcement is missing the point completely, as discussed above.

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