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Buying a home - dodgy conversions (how to tell if a flat is sound-proofed)

(4 Posts)
grace11 Sat 11-Jan-14 09:43:39

Hi,

Does anyone know when building regulations changed in England regarding flat conversions?

We are looking for our first home to buy in London, and can only afford a flat sandwiched between two others on the 1st floor (or similar). Having had some nightmares while renting pre-reg flats, we'd like to make sure we get somewhere that's better soundproofed (and the rest of it, as London is full of dodgy, cheaply-done flat conversions).

Does anyone know when that came in so we can ask agents or look at plans?

Does anyone have any tips about asking agents or investigating problem neighbours?

dannydyerismydad Sat 11-Jan-14 10:09:46

When a property is converted into flats, the local planning department may need to give planning permission, and will also need to give building regulations consent.

The building regs people visit at certain points during the development and sign off on different aspects to ensure they comply with standards. Sound proofing is one of many such standards. It is not possible to get building regs consent in retrospect for soundproofing as they would need to tear down walls and floors to physically look at the sound proofing materials used.

You can sometimes check the status of building regs online through the local authority website. Your solicitor should definitely gather this documentation from the vendor and the local authority as part of the conveyancing process.

I tried to buy a flat 9 years ago. The vendor promised to send the paperwork over every day right up until the date of exchange when he admitted he didn't get building regs consent for the sound proofing. Of course, I had all my legal fees to pay and was furious. If you can check online for yourself, I recommend you do.

grace11 Sat 11-Jan-14 10:18:28

Thanks Danny,

We are at the stage where we are just starting to look for a flat, so that's good to know for further down the line.

What I am trying to find out now is what year building regs came in, so that we can avoid anything that was converted before then, if it's possible to find out when the conversion was done on a particular flat.

We once rented a flat that was so badly converted that you could hear everyone's detailed conversations from above and the two studio flats below. One neighbour Skyped till 4 or 5 in the morning, another had a 3-year-old boy who would start at 7 – we never got any sleep! I'd hate to buy a place and find ourselves in the same position, I think we'd go insane...

dannydyerismydad Sat 11-Jan-14 10:30:22

There were definitely regs in place 9 years ago, how long before that, I have no idea. I think it's not that simple though (what is?), as the regs and standards change all the time. In theory, the more recently the conversion was done, the better the sound proofing should be.

Generally the poorly soundproofed places are on the rental market though - you can't sell a property without the relevant paperwork (unless the purchaser is an idiot and has a really poor solicitor and surveyor), but you can rent it out.

It's worth going through any leasehold agreements with your solicitor with a fine tooth comb. My DH's old flat wasn't badly soundproofed, but the leasehold agreement stated that all flats should be fully carpeted - no wood or laminate. The pig upstairs laminated his floors and stomped about with boots on 24 hours a day. The freehold company said they wouldn't take any action, they would just fine him when he came to sell the property. These clauses are brilliant, but only if the freehold company has the interests of the residents in place rather than the interests of their own pockets.

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