Buying without planning permission or building certificate?

Buying without planning permission or building certificate?

16:43 PM, 27th July 2020, About 4 years ago 12

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Hi All – I am in the middle of buying a house and the solicitors’ checks came back with a note that there are no documents (planning permission or building certificates) for the following:
1) conversion of the old side garage into a bathroom and utility room (the side extension)
2) Rear conservatory

Both were done back in 2004.

The seller’s solicitors have said that they can provide an indemnity policy, but I am not too convinced on this policy having done some research about what it actually covers (I.e not that much!).

I would prefer if the sellers got regularisation/retrospective approval from the council, but they are reluctant due to it potentially taking long and also the risk that the council says they need to be knocked down.

To add to this, my plan in terms of development for the property was to build a second storey on the side (subject to planning permissions). However, if I apply for this at some stage in the future, i’m not sure If the council would then look at the lack of documents for the current ground floor side extension and subsequently reject my application.

So I guess my questions are:
1) Would you push for regularisation instead of indemnity?
2) in either the case of regularisation or indemnity, am I right in thinking that my application for a second storey would make them look at the lack of docs in place, and therefore more likely for rejection? If so, I assume this risk of rejection would be lowered if we obtained regularisation instead of an indemnity?

Appreciate any help, views and advice!


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Paul Maguire

17:52 PM, 27th July 2020, About 4 years ago

I had this problem when selling my parent's house last year. The builders who'd put up a conservatory in 1999 hadn't bothered with a Building Warrant although Planning wasn't required. I had to bring it up to modern standards [wall vents, roof vents on the main house in the region that the conservatory was attached and a new door to open inwards, not outwards]. I also had to have new plans drawn as the original ones were lost. After all that a Completion Certificate was supplied by the Council. My solicitor suggested the option of indemnity insurance beforehand but at the same time advised against it due to cost. No reason why the seller can't comply as this'll come up with any other potential buyer. I'm in Scotland so might be different, but it shouldn't be much different.

brian gill

9:56 AM, 28th July 2020, About 4 years ago

If the 'old garage' was already there, they cant make you take it down. You dont need planning permission to change internally, but should have had a BC notice for insulation/drainage.
If it was an old garage, the footings might not support a second storey extension, so you will need to knock it down anyway.
The conservatory may have been built with permitted development rights. And if thermally isolated from the house, (equivalent of insulated/back door between) does not need a BC certificate.

Graham Bowcock

10:08 AM, 28th July 2020, About 4 years ago

The last family house we bought did not have the building regs paperwork and when we sold it the buyers would nto accept an insurance certificate.

I had to get a contractor to dig down to the footings to check they were okay and the local building inspector came out to see them. He then issued a certificate which my buyers were happy with. It all took just a few days and was actually incredibly efficient. Other authorities (especially at the moment) may not be as good.

Dylan Morris

11:18 AM, 28th July 2020, About 4 years ago

As far as I am aware an indemnity policy will only cover you for the council deciding that the extension needs to be demolished. Like all types of insurance cover you need to understand that it’s a totally different ball game in actually getting them to pay out. What happens if the insurance company goes bust ? If it was me I’d insist that the vendors obtain retrospective planning permission and building regs. Why on earth did they build it without these ? How do you know it has been constructed properly ? If they won’t then I’d look to buy elsewhere.
(Conservatories don’t need building regs so long as the roof is at least 75% glass or poly carbonate and it’s got it’s own heating source and closeable access between the house, such as a patio door for example. Planning permission not required for a conservatory under permitted development, so long as it does not extend from the house any more than 3m if semi detached house or 4m if detached).

Interestingly what does your solicitor advise and recommend ? After all you’re paying him to do this.


12:46 PM, 28th July 2020, About 4 years ago

Reply to the comment left by brian gill at 28/07/2020 - 09:56
What I believe is important to remember is that under the Planning Act 1990 if development has been completed for more than 4 years, the Local Planning Authority cannot take action and the development is Lawful.
This however doesn't apply to development to or within the curtilage of a Listed Building where the 4 year rule doesn't apply.
Regarding lack of Building Control Approval the period in which the Local Authority can take action is 12 months from the completion of the breach.
However the LA could apply to the courts if they felt the development was dangerous or had health and safety issues but this would have to be decided by a Court and not the LA.

chris oddy

15:13 PM, 28th July 2020, About 4 years ago

Hi, it is very unlikely that the council would ask you to knock this down because it has been up 16 years and as long as you are certain that the current owners are not in a legal battle with the council then more thank likely no one has complained. There is a 3 year rule of thumb and if no one has complained then it shouldn’t be an issue although I am not certain if this planning law. It would make sense to get them to get regularisation but if you are intending to alter the property yourself then you are going to change it anyway. Planners determine each submission on its own merits and as long as the current conservatory doesn’t exceed any commonly accepted parameters that exist already then this should not be held against you. Last year I added a 2 storey extension to an house that was in a conservation area. It had an existing single storey side garage with no permission. This did not hold us back. However we were not allowed to go out as far as the existing garage as they felt that was too far In this area so they judged it on its own merit not on what other people had built previously.

Dylan Morris

15:14 PM, 28th July 2020, About 4 years ago

If you are going to build the second storey extension on top of the existing converted garage and not somewhere else, then I think I’d just go ahead and buy the house and not worry about any of this. You’re going to possibly need Planning Permission (may be not if permitted development) but definitely building regs. You’ll need to check the depth of current foundations and if not sufficient to support the second storey, you’re going to have to demolish the old garage extension anyway to dig down further. So the whole lot will need to come down and start from scratch. I doubt the Council will give you any grief as it wasn’t yourself that converted the garage without regs in place, it was the previous owner. (Just emphasis that you’re the new owner and this time it will be done the correct way).

Michael Johnson - Amzac Estates

17:16 PM, 28th July 2020, About 4 years ago

We purchased a property that had been converted into 4 separate flats without planning permission or building control in 2005 with an indemnity policy to cover any legal or remedial costs. In 2018 the local authority carried out a discretionary licensing scheme and requested a licence for the property, however if the property met 1991 building regulations it would be exempt from the licence. We requested a retrospective building control visit to establish if this was the case and we made a claim on the policy which had been taken out in 2003 . The insurance company paid out all costs in relation to the building control application and our related legal fees with no questions asked. I would just make sure that the policy is with a good quality insurance company and ask the seller to pay for it.

paul robinson

18:54 PM, 28th July 2020, About 4 years ago

likely PD and conservatory not requiring BR with conversion a bit of a grey area or often ignored.
As others have said building a 2nd storey on top of garage would likely require exposing footing to show man enough.
Can’t really see an issue, just take the indemnities as advised.


9:10 AM, 29th July 2020, About 4 years ago

Isn't there a rule that after 4 years you can apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development (no guarantee it will be granted) or after 10 years you are golden and the LA can't touch you (both of which you would comply with if done in 2004)? This is provided you can prove the work was done back then (you'd need to provide chapter and verse to prove the work was done that long ago). If you can get comfortable on the 10 year rule (assuming I'm not talking cobblers), backpocket that knowledge knowing you are going to buy anyway but be economical with the truth and nevertheless demand a reduction in the purchase price for the "risk" you are taking?

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