Loft conversion without planning permission or building regs

by Readers Question

8:03 AM, 20th May 2019
About 2 years ago

Loft conversion without planning permission or building regs

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Loft conversion without planning permission or building regs

Hi everyone, We are in the process of buying a property and we have just found out that the loft conversion (into a bedroom) was done without planning permission or building regulations. This work was done probably over 25 years ago (windows are dated 1993) well before the current owners moved in.

I asked my solicitors if this bedroom would still be considered fit for purpose and they confirmed, verbally, that it would. I find it difficult to believe. I would not want to pay for the price of a 3 bedrooms bungalow and selling it as 2 beds one in the future. Unsure if an estate agent can market a property as a 3-bedroom bungalow if it turns out that one of the bedroom was a loft conversion without planning permission granted and building regulations approved? Could the use of the room as the bedroom for over 25 years change anything about it? I have read things about the 4 / 10 years rule, but I don’t think this could apply here.

Any thoughts?

We would also have all sort of other issues:
Risk of law enforcement by the Council (even if it is very unlikely)
We can’t guarantee the structure is adequate / the extension meets building regs
Could affect our mortgage
Insurance company could refuse to pay out under building insurance policy
Could impact the selling price as future buyer might not be prepared to take the risk

Our options so far if we wish to proceed, seem to be taking an indemnity insurance (not too keen on it as it doe not cover much) or to get a certificate of regularisation from the seller (if built after 1985 which is unlikely) which consist in an intrusive very long and complex work which is very likely to be refused.

Can you see any other options?

Jerome

 

Comments

jojo

15:58 PM, 7th June 2019
About 2 years ago

We have received the building survey report and nothing serious has been flagged up. The notes about the loft conversion came back ok too which is reassuring. All information we got are indicating that the extension was done prior 1985, so getting a certificate of regularisation doesn't seem to be an option anymore.

We only have the route of an indemnity insurance now which provides very little cover in my view and seems to be designed to avoid delays more than anything else.

Any thoughts?

Al

18:21 PM, 4th December 2019
About A year ago

I am 78 and have just had the shock of my life which has left me somewhat stunned and confused. I have a 3 bed semi and had my loft converted in 1993 by a recommended builder who discussed everything and answered my many questions as I had heard this and that stories. I understood that as no changes were to be made to the roof (only a velux window) or walls, etc and no door would be fitted making it an 'extra room' that all was OK. A proper staircase could be fitted so the 'room' was basically an open one. As the house had been completely rewired floor was 'floated' as the new cables had been inserted inside the original conduit. Twelve years ago when I wanted to move a Surveyor visited to quote a price and no mention was made about the loft conversion. I did not move and 6 years ago when I thought about moving again, that surveyor never said anything about the Conversion as my house was still a 3 bed semi. However trying to get equity that Surveyor has frightened me considerably after asking for the Council Certificate. I had no idea what he meant and when I asked him all I got was some frightening info that my loft had been converted illegally and that as I had no planning permission I could be in trouble. He refused my questions when I asked what had I done wrong and what should I do. All he said was what has been done has been done and left leaving me in a bit of a state. Checking various places on the net for questions similar to mine seem to concern a conversion that has doors and thus is making an extra room to the house. All mine has been used for has been as a Computer room and a small Model Railway layout.

Wyn Burgess

8:04 AM, 5th December 2019
About A year ago

Hi, your conversion won't meet building regs so you can't claim it is a habitable room. If you sold, the estate agent would have to say the area was storage and buyers could then make up their own minds as to whether they wanted to use the room(s) as you do. The house would be worth less as a consequence.
You could ask a private building control officer or chartered building surveyor or structural engineer to visit and tell you what needs to be done to comply but it is likely to be a lot of work and could mean much of the conversion has to be done again. Enforcement action is unlikely.
Permitted development rights mean that you probably did not need planning permission for the work but there are rules that need to be followed on this. Sometimes people apply for a Certificate of Lawfullness on a loft conversion to prove PP wasn't needed but there is no requirement to do this but sometimes prospective purchasers ask for one.
I am sorry your builder let you down so badly, you may be able to claim but seek legal advice as I think you are out of time. Best Wyn B

Al

10:35 AM, 5th December 2019
About A year ago

Hi Wynn, Many thanks for that as it has eased my mind a bit. To be honest it has only been used as a store for past 10 years as too big and costly to heat up in winter. It was the attitude of the Surveyor which caused me to panic as he was so friendly when he came in and we chatted a bit but after he had been upstairs he changed. He first asked if it had been done before I bought the house and when i said no it had been done in 1993 he then asked to see this Council certificate, that baffled me, he got very Official. When I asked what had I done wrong he only muttered about what has been done has been done and then left. Not only did the builder tell me what he did but so had others as I checked with a few people before I had the work done and as I have had two other Surveyors (12 and 6 years ago) who did not say anything I was oblivious that anything was wrong. I do not want to sell anyway as am just planning to use some Equity to redecorate, etc, as I have no close relatives to leave my house to so decided to enjoy something meanwhile. I think he could at least been a bit more Civil and explained what he found that was exactly against pp than almost rushing to get out of the house. My next door neighbour has suggested some indemnity thing that costs £200 but am not sure what that is or what that would do. Thanks again for your message.

Wyn Burgess

12:32 PM, 5th December 2019
About A year ago

Hi, indemnity policy only covers you in the event that the council take planning or building control enforcement action against you. They only cost few hundred £, that is because enforcement action is very unlikely. I would not bother personally.

Al

15:36 PM, 5th December 2019
About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by Wyn Burgess at 05/12/2019 - 12:32
Hi, many thanks.

Puzzler

7:53 AM, 6th December 2019
About A year ago

Reply to the comment left by jojo at 01/06/2019 - 22:25
No, the details are always accompanied by exclusion clauses and their contract is with the vendor not with you

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