Buying a house without building regs for loft conversion pre 1985?

by Readers Question

14:20 PM, 5th April 2017
About 2 years ago

Buying a house without building regs for loft conversion pre 1985?

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Buying a house without building regs for loft conversion pre 1985?

I am currently in the process of purchasing my first house. The property is a bungalow with a loft conversion providing four bedrooms upstairs, converted in 1981 with planning permission.

The problem we have encountered is that since the renovation was undertaken in 1981 it does not have a certificate of compliance with building regulations as apparently certification wasn’t required until 1985.
I wondered if anyone could shed some light on the situation as I imagine there must be a lot of cases like this for old houses?

What we do have is evidence of planning permission and the drawn plans for the renovation which include a stamp of approval from the planning office and instructions that building regulations should be followed. Our solicitors have instructed for a search at the local planning office by a search provider to identify if there are any records relating to the building regulations of the loft. We are currently impatiently awaiting feedback from the searches which were carried out last Friday.
The solicitors have said that if sufficient documentation is not found then we will need to notify the lender who may ask for an indemnity policy.

It doesn’t make that much sense to me that the lender will ask for an indemnity policy, even though a certificate of building regs was not required at the time. We are also planning to do our own renovation work once we complete so would ultimately invalidate any indemnity policy when we get future work certified.

My questions are:
1) Is this the norm for renovations before 1985?
2) Are the solicitors required to inform the lender even though a certificate was not required for the renovation and planning permission was approved?

Any advice or previous experience of this situation would be appreciated. We would like to exchange as soon as possible but don’t want to rush into something risky.

Sam



Comments

Puzzler

16:43 PM, 5th April 2017
About 2 years ago

I had the same issue with a bathroom off the kitchen only having one door (no longer a problem in any case but was at the time). A wise surveyor said building regulations cannot be backdated or applied retrospectively otherwise they would not be building regulations but dwelling regulations. However that was a while ago. I think your solicitor is being overzealous but I would have thought your lender would be ok with it anyway. Otherwise anything built or extended prior to 1985 would be affected. The lender will have done a valuation - you could query with the valuer.

Sam

17:28 PM, 5th April 2017
About 2 years ago

Hi Puzzler thanks for your advice. Good to hear its not so out of the ordinary.
We have spoken to the valuer who adivsed that he would not change his valuation given that a certificate wasn't required. He also said he would also still consider the new rooms as bedrooms. He said he would provide written confirmation of this to the lender if he was asked by them.

We also checked that our buildings and contents insurance provider would cover us, which they will. Myself and my partner are happy to exchange but the solicitors are insistent they need to check with the lender if there's no documentation available, which will be another delay. Its been a week and a half since they said they wanted to do the searches regarding building regulation and we had planned to complete this Friday so the delay is quite frustrating.

Any advice on how to persuade the solicitor to just let us exchange without the extra documentation? Would it help if I spoke to the lender myself for their opinion?

steve gilbert

11:43 AM, 6th April 2017
About 2 years ago

Hi. It is true that pre 1985 building control completion certificates were generally not issued. There is also a problem with many loft conversions not having sufficient structural support which could cause problems. Thus you are faced with an issue. For your own peace of mind you can safety assume if the conversion has been ok for last 30 years it will continue to be so. You could also phone building control. They will give no written evidence but will at least tell you over the phone if they over sore the works
Now to satisfy the lender is another issue. Puzzler is incorrect; building control can be backdated. It is called a regularization certificate. A fee, slightly higher than normal is payable and an inspector will come round. He will asses the works NOT based on current Regs but as they were in the 80's, which makes insulation and fire requirements vastly more simple. The problem is that with it being a loft conversion exploratory works to check steels and beam sizes would be quite disruptive.
Personally I would and often have, go down an indemnity insurance route. This is generally a matter of £100-£200 and the cost is usually bore by the vendor. It is also standard practice and, in my experience, always accepted by mortgage company for their piece of mind.
Hope this helps

CazT

13:23 PM, 6th April 2017
About 2 years ago

Hi Sam
This is just a general comment re Indemnity Insurance. The first time this reared it's ugly head I was extremely worried about having to spend yet more money. Many properties and Indemnity Insurance policies later, I am quite blasé about them. They are relatively cheap and cover for any unforeseen consequences is a good thing to have. If, as you stated, you are going to do your own renovation work, perhaps that would be a good time to ask building control to drop in and check that it's safe. That way you will have peace of mind going forward. By the way, you have a very conscientious solicitor there - worth their weight in gold! Good luck and hope all goes well for you.

David Price

10:56 AM, 8th April 2017
About 2 years ago

Two points I would like to make:-
1. A Regularisation certificate cannot be issued in respect of unauthorised work carried out before 11th November 1985.
2. It is worth looking at the case of Cottingham, Cottingham v Attey Bower and Jones. In this case the argument put forward successfully by Mr and Mrs Cottingham to prove negligence on the part of their solicitors in failing to confirm building regulation approval for unauthorised work. As previously advised, the seller should be required to pay for a building regulation indemnity policy. However, such a policy will only be useful in the event that the local authority decides to take no action.


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