Warning about buying a property with 2 kitchens

(50 Posts)
marykat2004 Fri 07-Feb-14 12:40:34

Hello, this is a bit long but i want to share this in case anyone else finds themselves in the same situation. I was not aware of this, nor, it seems were my solicitor, estate agents, seller, building regulations man, etc. This is what I have just sent to the press. I hope it can get coverage as people need to know.

When a house is not a house

Do people know that you can have a house that is one house on the deed, can not be sold or rented out as separate units, but is taxable as separate units?

With many people moving out of London, attracted by bigger, cheaper properties, and with more people working from home, this fact needs to be made public. It needs to be known to all estate agents, builders, building inspectors, conveyancing solicitors, surveyors and most of all the public.

My husband and I bought a house that had an extra kitchen on the top floor. The main kitchen of the 3 story, 4-bedroom terraced house was actually quite small. When the previous owner?s 95-year-old mother had a stroke and many carers were coming into the house, the previous owner installed for herself a kitchen on the top floor.

When we viewed the house we saw potential for work space, as I wanted to work from home myself. We also saw the potential long term benefits for our daughter, who is 9 now. With increasing property prices, it is unlikely she will be able to afford to move out for quite some time, and might like to have some space for herself when she is older. We also saw the potential that if we had health problems, we had the option of staying on the ground floor when recovering from surgery for example (I have had foot surgery and will likely need it again in the future).

The house was sold as a single dwelling. On the deed it is a single dwelling. Planning permission would be required to turn it into flats. Walls would need to be built, with locking doors to separate areas of the house.

When we had the survey done, the surveyor commented that 2 kitchens would be problematic if we were applying for a mortgage. But since we were cash buyers that was not an issue. He said nothing about double council tax.

We moved in in August 2013. We began paying council tax on one house, as the previous had done. We had a letter from the Valuation Office asking about work done by the previous owner. I saw no problem in reporting the work done, but mentioned that at present we were not using the second kitchen. We had decided it was more practical to have the work space on the top floor.

During the sale of the house the previous owner had had to get a building regulation certificate for the arch that was built when she knocked through the bedrooms on the top floor. The second kitchen is mentioned on the building regulation certificate. This is what generated the alert to the valuation office.

Houses with 2 kitchens are not uncommon. If you look on rightmore.co.uk you can find them quite easily. Many, like ours are not separated. They have no separate entrances, no separate utilities, and no locks on any doors. They are being sold as a single dwellings as ours was. I phoned up an estate agent to one of the houses currently on the market and asked if they were aware that these houses, upon sale, would generate two council tax bills. They said they were not aware.

Estate agents take no responsibility for this. Similarly, the conveyancing solicitors also take no responsibility: it states in their terms and conditions that they do not advise on tax, including council tax.

I spoke with the man who issued the building regulation certificate, who was baffled by the situation and said that he never said anything about separate flats, and that the certificate was for the opening of the arch.

After much research I found out that, dating back to 1995, so-called ?granny flats? were taxable as separate properties even though they did not have separate entrances and could not be sold or rented out separately.

As a home buyer, buying my first house, after only having a flat in a block, I had no idea that any of this would happen. The previous owner of our house also received a back council tax bill dating to June 2011, when she got the building regulation certificate. She was told she had to pay £2000 immediately, on a house that she had not lived in in 6 months. She is living on a state pension.

We spoke to numerous solicitors, Citizens Advice Bureaux and, several times, the valuation office and the local council tax office. The local council tax office said they only deal with the bills and the valuation office would have to re-evaluate the house. The local council tax office extended our bill due date for 28 days. However, upon receiving our letters of appeal, the valuation office said it could take up to 4 months to re-evaulate the house. Thus meaning we had to pay these back-dated bills that were generated in error.

My husband suffers from mental illness and hearth failure. We bought this house because we thought it was disability-friendly. We bought this house so I could work from home, and look after my husband (I am his carer) and our daughter. Since this stress with the council tax I have been unable to work. I only started my business in October 2013. This is such a difficult time to be starting a business, and then having to deal with this council tax. We can not afford to pay 2 council tax bills.

I want to make the property buying public aware that if someone is attracted to a house with 2 kitchens that they will have to pay double council tax even if the current owner is not paying double. Basically, when someone puts in a kitchen, they don't need planning permission. But when they sell the house, it becomes two flats in the eyes of the Council Tax people, no matter what the deed says. People need to know this.

The previous owner had no idea about ?granny flats? or taxes on ?granny flats? and never even considered any part of her house a ?granny flat?. She merely adapted a space on the top floor for herself, to give her mother and her mother's carers some space.

This has caused extreme stress to all involved: a pensioner with no family who has a new house to look after; a mentally and physically disabled man and his carer, and a child who is being affected by the stress that her parents are under.

Had we known about this ?law? where a house is house on the deed but not in the eyes of the Council tax, we would have chosen another house.

Estate agents need to tell people about this. Conveyancing solicitors need to know this. And builders who put in kitchens without needing planning permission also need to be aware of this.

7 Feb 2014

Plumpcious Mon 10-Feb-14 15:02:13

Has the inspector been yet?

drawohamme Mon 10-Feb-14 15:06:22

Curious to know what they would say if you were Jewish / wanted the extra kitchen for dietary reasons?

edy1 Sun 13-Jul-14 20:32:27

Did you get a result from the valuation board? Im about to start this same journey!

mvicks1 Mon 22-Jun-15 12:55:42

Just out of interest, did you end up buying the house with two kitchens and was the mortgage ok? We are going through this process now and the surveyor has flagged up that it has two kitchens although we are going to be knocking the property back into just one house.

I really hope you reply.

Kind regards

vintagetat Mon 22-Jun-15 14:39:11

Please update! We are in the process of buying a house with 2 kitchens and we are having the valuation done tomorrow. Had no idea there might be a problem so now I'm panicking!!!

mysteryfairy Mon 22-Jun-15 19:13:41

I posted last year about my purchase of a two Kitchened house. After the survey the bank asked me to confirm verbally that I would not be renting the annexe out. I confirmed that it was integrated with the main house and renting was something I would never contemplate with my children in the house.

Regarding the council tax my council had the new 50% exemption for annexed on their website but I could not get any of their call centre staff to grasp it and can only assume their systems were not set up to deal with it. Eventually I got issued with a bill for the annexe for no money and have just been paying the council tax due on the main house. This is band d whereas my old house worth half as much was band e. I then had a letter saying they would be revaluing my house as one dwelling but nothing has happened since. If they revalue it ludicrously highly I will dispute at that point but in the mean time just keeping up to date with the bill.

vintagetat Mon 22-Jun-15 19:53:34

Oh good, I am having a huge panic. We were due to exchange on our current house today assuming everything would be ok with buying the new one!!!!
There is hope that everything will be ok, I have got the valuation being done tomorrow so we shall find out then!
I can't handle this stress.....never again.

vintagetat Mon 22-Jun-15 20:28:27

Can I also ask who your lender was mysteryfairy

mvicks1 Mon 22-Jun-15 21:03:56

Hi thanks for this mysteryfairy. Sounds the exact same as mine. Apparently two kitchens gives an automatic decline. My lender is Natwest. We had a full survey done ten days ago and due to the kitchens it was sent back to the underwriters. They have now asked my broker to write a letter explaining the details of the annexe and why it was used by the sellers and what our plans are. We should get a decision within 24-48 hours so I will keep you posted. The stress is terrible lol. We have three young children too and just want to make one big family home for ourselves.

Vintage tat I am 99% sure the kitchens will be raised so atleast you are prepared.

We may even get the seller to rip the second kitchen out between exchange and completion if they request that.

Good luck :-)

mvicks1 Mon 22-Jun-15 21:06:06

One other thing. We paid for a full survey which could now be money wasted. I recommend you go for the basic valuation so the lender will decide before you fork out loads of money. In hindsight I wish we'd done that!

InsertUsernameHere Mon 22-Jun-15 23:00:14

Bought a house with two kitchen - didn't have any problems. (Though much confusion in the call centre). Lender was first direct.

vintagetat Tue 23-Jun-15 09:53:10

I am so nervous, the valuation is being done today. I wonder when we will hear back.

mvicks1 Tue 23-Jun-15 10:42:00

We had a phone call to say our mortgage has been agreed today! A day after the broker sent a detailed letter to the lender (Natwest) about the annex and kitchens etc. Good luck with yours. I am sure it will all work out and common sense prevails. Please let me know how the valuation goes as I’ll be interested to see what they say to you. Try and not think too much about it, as it is stressful and no amount of worrying will change anything, easier said than done I know. To clarify, it has taken 11 days from the survey date to get the mortgage finalised.

vintagetat Tue 23-Jun-15 10:49:42

Thanks for coming back! That has given me hope, I was thinking we'd have to give up yesterday. I can't seem to concentrate on anything until it's sorted. Should really be packing but while everything is up in the air I can't bring myself to do it. Hope everything goes ok with your new house.

mvicks1 Tue 23-Jun-15 11:14:25

Thanks and I felt EXACTLY the same lol... it is a complete roller coaster! :-) Maybe they might even overlook yours and it will just all be ok. I suppose it depends on the Lender. Don't give up tho as I'm sure they wouldn't come back with a flat no, maybe they'd ask you to remove the kitchen etc but not a flat no xxx

spiney Tue 23-Jun-15 11:20:58

We bought a house which WAS divided into 2 flats. Within the last few years.

Initially the issue was with our mortgage provider who needed proof that we were not intending to rent out one of the flats. To prove this would not happen it was required that 1 of the kitchens was removed and seperate services cut off to get the mortgage (so BEFORE we exchanged...) BUT it was doable. SH Solictor wrote special interim contract. Anyway it was very quick to rip OUT a kitchen and cap off service pipes etc- Ours took a morning? I really shouldn't worry about that OP its very doable.

After we had moved in I rang the Council and explained house was now one dwelling and someone came round to see and that was it. Getting the old service providers to understand - now thats another story....Still getting letters 4 years later. Has anyone from the council actually had sight of your house OP?

If you wanted to reinstate the upstairs area as a working kitchen OP sometime in the future, all the service would still be in place. And you would just be putting in the carcass kitchen.

I wonder if Milliband pays 2 council taxes.

vintagetat Tue 23-Jun-15 12:27:16

It's all made worse by the fact we were supposed to be exchanging today or tomorrow!!! Our buyer is pressuring us and threatening to pull out! Argh!!!!

scarlets Tue 23-Jun-15 16:10:26
Qwebec Tue 23-Jun-15 20:34:46

I'm not in the UK but it might still apply.

Here what makes a kitchen a kitchen in the legal sense is that there is an electrical outlet for the stove. You can have everything else, as long as you condemn that you are fine. It's worth is to ask as it's not that expensive to have it removed (or restored). Some people have a wet bar in their basement, that is essentialy a fancy kitchen with out stove and it's not a problem .

vintagetat Tue 23-Jun-15 21:42:47

I'd have no trouble ripping out the kitchen if we are allowed to before we complete. It's made more difficult because of it being a repo, the seller in this case is the bank.
Our buyer wants to exchange on our current property tomorrow......have no idea what to do. I think she is feeling jittery knowing its a repo and we could lose it at any time....

Oliversmumsarmy Tue 23-Jun-15 22:19:33

Just come across this thread.

I am about to start to convert a garage and attached outbuilding into a games room gym and small kitchen and shower room for teenage children to use for sleepovers and just to get generally out of our way.
There is a separate entrance to each of the 2 rooms from the garden. I don't really want to be taxed on it as we presumed this would be the cheaper and most practical option.

mvicks1 Mon 29-Jun-15 12:59:18

Vintage Tat - any news? How did the survey go? :-)

vintagetat Mon 29-Jun-15 13:16:33

The survey was done last Tuesday, we have been sent a copy of the survey which looks ok. Mentions that it has an annexe, also says its suitable for mortgage lending purposes. Just waiting for the official mortgage offer now, it was only returned to the bank on Friday morning so hopefully it won't be too much longer.
I shall keep you updated!

vintagetat Mon 29-Jun-15 20:34:01

We heard later on today that we will have our offer by Thursday smile No questions have been asked...yet....

vintagetat Thu 02-Jul-15 15:15:59

Well, we have had our offer through. No mention of the 2 kitchens, not even an enquiry as to our plans for it smile

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