No building regs for extension or loft conversion - would you proceed with house purchase

(59 Posts)
NorkyButNice Fri 07-Aug-09 16:06:36

We're in the process of buying a house which seemed ideal - the owners have done a loft conversion and added an extra bedroom which appeared to have been done really nicely.

After holding back on providing documents to my solicitor for the last 3 weeks, it now appears that they had no planning permission or building regs sign off for the works that have been done. I think they're OK on the planning front, but obviously they should have got building regs to sign off the work.

Their solicitor is now asking if we'll accept the vendors buying us an indemnity insurance policy to cover us in the eventuality that the council comes along and challenges us over the work, but if we accept that there's no way to get retrospective sign-off (and so no way to guarantee that the work has been done safely and to the required standards).

Other option is insisting that the vendors apply for building regs before the sale goes through (and remedy any issues that are raised).

I'm fuming as the vendors have spent the last 3 weeks trying to hide the truth from us. It seems they'd been lying to their solicitor all this time too - makes me wonder what else might be wrong.

What would you do in this case? Sorry this is so long!

FiveGoMadInDorset Fri 07-Aug-09 16:11:36

No I wouldn't be happy to spend a huge amount of money on a house that has not been signed off on, the fact that they have been stalling would worry me, if I was in your shoes I would insist that they had the work signed off by building regs.

Tortington Fri 07-Aug-09 16:13:57

we have a loft with no permission and got them to get indemnity insurance.

Tortington Fri 07-Aug-09 16:14:32

however if you ask about it or try to remedy the situation retrospectivley, the insurance is voided - so i understand

BigGobMum Fri 07-Aug-09 16:17:20

No. Wouldnt risk it.

noddyholder Fri 07-Aug-09 16:17:50

The indemnity insurance only indemnifies in respect of planning so you would not be forced to take the extension away etc.But it doesn't insure against the loft room being sub standard or anything so you need a good structural surveyor to give it the once over.

weegiemum Fri 07-Aug-09 16:21:09

My brother bought a house with an extension dine with no planning permission and now he is not able to sell at all - been a pain in the neck as they moved 100 miles with work and are renting it out instead.

Don't do it.

NorkyButNice Fri 07-Aug-09 16:21:24

Custy - did you take any money off your price because the work wasn't signed off (or did you know before offering?).

My concerns are the fact that things like the electrics won't have been checked, strength of new walls...

When it comes to selling the property on I'd have to tell people the work wasn't signed off which would reduce it's value too - there's no way I'm paying the price we've agreed even with the insurance policy.

LIZS Fri 07-Aug-09 16:22:24

Can you get an independent surveyor to check it complies to buildings regs ? How long ago was it done because while it may have conformed at the time, it might not now as they change which is a whole new issue. If they/you contact the council and it is refused then you can't get indemnity insurance. Alternative is to renegotiate the price excluding the loft as a habitable room, We went down the indemnity isnurance route and the loft is used as a playroom and occcasional bedroom (stairs have buildings regs though)

NorkyButNice Fri 07-Aug-09 16:22:56

Lots of x posts there!

LIZS Fri 07-Aug-09 16:23:58

You can sell an indemnity policy on with the house btw.

Tortington Fri 07-Aug-09 16:24:42

no i didn't but i bought before the downturn - and i loved the house so much i would have done anything.

i thnk your in a good position to bargain further.

listen to Noddy - she is the expert

edam Fri 07-Aug-09 16:24:53

I'd go with noddy and get a structural engineer/surveyor in - and make the sellers pay for him or her.

I understand that can cause problems taking out indemnity insurance (although I think that insurance may merely cover you for planning insisting work is undone, rather than the extension falling down?) BUT I'd rather know than take the risk of faulty wiring/whatever.

NorkyButNice Fri 07-Aug-09 16:32:02

I've called the surveyor who saw the property - he's reading over his report to refresh his mind and is calling back. I'm annoyed at the fact that I'm going to have to pay for him to go back again (or can I insist the vendors pay)?

I really don't think we're going to buy unless the vendors get the building regs sign off before we proceed. This is so frustrating!

PestoMonster Fri 07-Aug-09 16:42:10

Norky, deduct the extra costs you incur from the amount of your offer.

LIZS Fri 07-Aug-09 16:45:38

Be a little careful as if they pay out I think technically it may become their report rather than yours. You may want to do as PestoM says. Obviously if you were to pull out they still have the issue to resolve so ti gives you some leverage. Did the surveyor's valuation assume it was a bedroom ?

NorkyButNice Fri 07-Aug-09 16:54:00

Yes, the surveyors valuation is based on it being a 4 bed house (including loft conversion and the extension).

If we drop our offer by the amount I'm thinking, I think they'll change their mind about leaving - they were insistent on getting near the asking price because of how much they've spent on the work they've done [hollow laugh].

MarquesDeLeon Fri 07-Aug-09 17:00:13

We sold our house 8 months ago and discovered (unknown to us) that building regs hadn't been signed off on a bathroom installation that had been done 2 years previously whilst we were overseas. We rang the council and the chap came round the next day had a quick look and signed it off. There had also been an extension done 20 years previously (before we owned the house)that hadn't been signed off. The purchaser wouldn't accept indemnity insurance (it had never been an issue for us when we bought it) but our wonderful estate agent (yes! I know) got an official letter from the council stating that they would never question the legality or otherwise of the extension.

noddyholder Fri 07-Aug-09 17:08:29

If you love the house and the surveyor says it is up to standard and you plan to stay in it then I would get a small reduction and proceed.

This happened to me. I was selling a flat and turned out the kitchen extension didn't get planning permission. (why this was only discovered when i was selling, I don't know hmm)

I called the Council and they said that they said they can't do much if it's more than 7 years ago in that they won't ask you to remove the work. In the end, the buyer and I split the cost of the indemnity insurance.

Sorry to be stupid, but isn't the whole point of the new scheme of home buyers packsis for sellers to provide guarantees etc is so that these issues are known about in advance?

littlerach Fri 07-Aug-09 17:39:04

When we bought this house the loft conversion had no official Bu Regs done. However, when dh went ot the planning dept, he spoke ot he chap who had checked it all and he was happy with it all.

Our sellers took out the indemnity insurance on our solicitor's insistence.

HerHonesty Fri 07-Aug-09 18:01:49

no, if they couldnt be bothered to get br or planning then you have to wonder what sort of builder they used to do the work (no decent builder would do this)

so regardless of any indeminty insurance, unless you get a massive drop in the price you cant really protect yourself against the shoddy work that may have been done.

FabBakerGirlIsBack Fri 07-Aug-09 18:04:45

No way would I proceed.

FabBakerGirlIsBack Fri 07-Aug-09 18:06:57

I would see if they have been hiding anything else too and would not pay out for anything due to them trying to shaft you.

NorkyButNice Fri 07-Aug-09 18:07:37

The HIP says that they have got building regs. Turns out to be a lie (estate agent and their solicitor unaware).

I am worried about the quality of building work and what else the house might be hiding.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Fri 07-Aug-09 18:08:45

I am reading this with interest, as I was about to post a thread from the other perspect after a very stressful day.

We are having our loft done. We have just had building regs signed off for insulation, structural steels etc, all the structural stuff has been approved. We are about to put in fire doors, integral fire alarms throughout the house, and meet ALL the criteria for building regs. Apart from one thing is very wrong.

Due to the stupidity of building regs, we now have to have a little landing upstairs before the fire door starts. Which now it has been put in, with the partition walls being quite thick, and it takes up so much room in the loft space that we will struggle to get the bloody bed in, and it cuts off almost half the bedroom angry. I am furious, very very stressed, lost it in front of the builders and have been pulling my hair out, almost literally. I am laying the fault of this with the structural architect who was some-what creative with his drawings. Although the drawings were structurally correct, the ratios he showed us demonstrated the usable space to be hugely bigger, we could fit a kingsize bed in no problem. He said, and according to the plans this appeared true. And the eaves space, less than he demonstrated, and the cupbaoard space, non-existant.

So, we have in effect paid £17for an almost unusable space, all because of this very new regulation which states we now have to have this landing. Not for fire regs, not for structural regs, not for any purpose I think than to piss me off.

We have decided that once building regs are signed off, we will remove the partition wall that is causing the major problem, and put the fire door directly on top of the stairs, so that the fire corridor still exists, we will not compromise the fire safety or the structure in any way, but know that all other work is safe by the building regs being signed off.

When we come to sell, we will be honest and upfront with the potential buyers, and accept that we will need to either rectify the changes, or take an indemnity for the structure (and accept a slight decrease in the offer) in the knowledge the structure is completely safe. We will not put the room back as it was straight away as it is unsightly, we will let any buyer decide if they want that or not, and be responsible for it.

But, I guess I am posting this, partly to vent (sorry blush) but also partly as I am interested that people would still consider buying if the structural integrity is guaranteed at least.

I think it is worth checking whether it would pass building regs, and if not, what aspects would fail so you can see if remedial work by the seller is possible.

missingtheaction Fri 07-Aug-09 18:18:04

phone the council and check whether any building regs inspections were done at all during the build. you can do this anonymously if necessary. if it is just the final sign off then you can do a holdback situation: withhold £5000 until final regs come through up to a time limit of 6 months or whatever. if there was never any inspeciton at all then i would walk away or negotiate a massive discount sufficient to cover any hideous problem.

No other extensions/knocked-down walls/replacement windows etc are there?

missingtheaction Fri 07-Aug-09 18:20:46

pavlov, if i was buying your house i wouldn't notice what you'd done - as long as the paperwork was in place I don;'t think it would occur to me to ask

lots of stuff that's in houses now wouldn't pass regs if it was new - downstairs loos too small for wheelchairs etc etc. It's the original signoff that matters to me

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Fri 07-Aug-09 18:28:00

that is interesting/reassuring to read missinginaction. I guess we are presuming that the structural report would spot it.

PavlovtheForgetfulCat Fri 07-Aug-09 18:28:20

Sorry, I got your name wrong blush

fridayschild Fri 07-Aug-09 18:46:28

If you are getting a mortgage, your lender will want building regs and planning for all the rooms you are paying for - ie the loft. Or insurance. You can get insurance for lack for building regs; I have done that for a client this week. Let me know if you need the name of the insurer. The mortgagee perspective might assist with price negotiations with your seller, because everyone else who needs a loan to buy the house is in the same position.

I don't think there's an issue with insurance as being dodgy, and as Liz says you can pass it on when you sell. The key point for me is the one you mention - has the work been done properly and safely, and what else has been done to the house? If you're in love with the house you might need your surveyor to go round again with that brief, remembering that building regs change over time.

NorkyButNice Fri 07-Aug-09 19:24:22

The work was only done 18 months ago so I can't imagine regs have changed a lot in that time.

My solicitor tells me we can't ask the council whether regs were sought at any point as we then couldn't apply for insurance if we did decide to proceed.

At the moment, 2 of the bedrooms aren't signed off, so that would mean I'm essentially paying 390k for a 2 bee house.

Does the fact they've lied on their HIP mean I can get them to reimburse my costs so far if we pull out?

LIZS Fri 07-Aug-09 19:51:53

aargh hadn't realised it was 2 bedrooms. Can they say why they didn't go back to get buidlings regs , is it just a formality ? Can you speak to the builder ? Presumably it has got a window or 2 up there so if they won't tell you the name of the builder for you to check their story the FENSA website should show who registered the new windows.

goldenpeach Fri 07-Aug-09 20:22:55

Step away. We nearly bought a beautiful house with incredible loft, then the survey came back, the roof was sagging as they removed too much support, there was a huge crack all down the front which needed attention, the kitchen floor was lifting up due to some other problem. This house was a dream, expensive stylish radiators, beautiful flooring, bath on feet, the lot but underneath all the structure was dodgy. It felt like they had not only polished the turd but put gilt on it.

Umlellala Fri 07-Aug-09 20:40:02

How much is indemnity insurance then? what is it actually for?

We are about to buy a lovely house with no building regs for the not habitable loft room (is an additional space, was created in 1999) or the conservatory (which apparently doesn't need it). Not worried about quality of work, surveyor's report amazing and the condition of the house v good for it's age (far better than ours blush). Will have to check it all out with solicitor though.

NorkyButNice Fri 07-Aug-09 20:47:50

I don't know how much it costs - the vendors would pay for it if we decided to proceed (which I don't think we will at the moment).

This is the thing goldenpeach - they said they spent 50K on the loft conversion with all the en suite fixtures and fittings. Farrow and Ball throughout, 500 pound shower heads, remote control blinds on the windows... what on earth is the point if they haven't got building regs?

The survey came back with a few small issues but nothing related to the extension work. Obviously there's no way he could see the underlying structural integrity of the work though, without ripping up floorboard or taking down walls. They've put in a dormer window which obviously affects the roof integrity too - all things I'd want to get sign off for rather than taking the insurance option.

noddyholder Fri 07-Aug-09 20:50:57

Oh I didn't realise it was 2 rooms.You can apply for a regularisation certificate but I would check it out seriously as it is essentially a 2 bed until all is legal.How much is a similar 2 bed in the area?

noddyholder Fri 07-Aug-09 20:51:19

The insurance is about 200 btw

Umlellala Fri 07-Aug-09 20:53:39

No, I think you are right to get it signed off. It's the fact they've hidden it from you that seems weird/dodgy- surely they'd realise it would come up?

goldenpeach Fri 07-Aug-09 20:58:29

Norky, I know it would be impossible but they sound like those sellers of the doomed house: £300 radiators (each) in the living areas, incredibly expensive fittings in bathrooms. I was furious as the survey was £600 and we were desperate but then the other house turned up and it was cheaper and a semi to boot.

Umlellala Fri 07-Aug-09 21:01:16

It does rather sound like they might be trying to hide something <tries to stop worrying about own house now, though no expensive fixtures &fittings there>

LIZS Fri 07-Aug-09 21:03:20

Are you sure they didn't also need pp for the dormer ? The rules were only relaxed recently.

NorkyButNice Fri 07-Aug-09 21:20:39

I believe the work was done 18 months ago, so not sure about the planning rules at that point. I have checked the current rules and I think it's OK, apart from the fact that it's supposed to blend in with the appearance of the current building which it really doesn't.

If you apply for building regs retrospectively, how can they check the work to the same extent they would during the build? I've lost faith in the house I think.

goldenpeach Fri 07-Aug-09 21:30:14

For what is worth, I had to top up an indemnity insurance on my house, the seller bought if for me when i bought at 140 (she had not a clue about an old extension and when i sold for 190 I was asked to top up as buyers nervous about my conservatory being build on a pipe (which had been properly strenghtened but they were nervous so I topped it up to the new value of 190). It cost me 400 pounds and it was a top up, so not sure it's only 200

This happened to us when we bought last year. But as in the case of Marques, the work in question had been done years ago. The surveyors were satisfied with the quality, but the council only had half the paperwork. It would not surprise me if the council lost the other relevant half, and the sellers bought us indemnity. I was happy enough in this case to go ahead.

However, it sounds like your situation is really differet - lying to the HIP people, work recently done (and therefore possibly sitll under the council's radar). I just don't think I'd risk it.

goldenpeach Fri 07-Aug-09 21:34:05

Forgot to mention that I didn't make a massive profit as I had to spend over 30K to fix it as awful ex rental. Since then I don't trust anybody. My second house had a lovely survey but they failed to spot a few things, which were minors, but it annoyed me.

digerd Wed 25-Jul-12 16:46:52

In reply to Fivegomad in Dorset 2009
My daughter bought a house with no planning permission for a loft bedroom and toilet, but sellers and estate agent were upfront and was included in info to buyers, even explaining that although it did have 3 bedrooms, it could be classed only as 2. She paid £50 herself for an indemnity insurance and paid for the thickening of its floor, which made the bedroom underneath a slightly lower ceiling, as that upper loft floor was not really safe or to regs
I bought a bungalow, being the 5th owner, and after I moved in, the solicitor phoned me say there was no planning permission found by the council for the rear single extension, which he knew as was in contact with the surveyor who informed him, so solitors should be be aware of extensions on a property with no planning permission

He told me it was no problem as was obviously older than 10 years - after 10 years I discovered it was 30 years old at the time, but don't think my house insurance will insure it and people who have quieried this on forums have never had a reply to this question
Anyone had experience of House insurers refusing to cover extensions with no planning permission?

TirednessKills Wed 25-Jul-12 17:10:00

FFS this thread is 3 years old

TalkinPeace2 Wed 25-Jul-12 17:43:37

My house does not have building regs because the loft conversion meant they wanted me to change every door in the house to a fire door - that I would then be allowed to leave wide open.
I refused.
I have it all in writing.
Everything else is fine.

After the work was completed the council upped my council tax band, despite not giving the sign off.

Building Regs are a stupid system.
The team leader admitted that around 1 in 4 homes is not signed off at any time, mostly to do with fire regs like mine.

Sausagedog27 Wed 25-Jul-12 19:53:17

We bought a house with a loft conversion which had no consent- didn't bother us but our house was valued on the basis that the loft room couldn't be counted as a bedroom.

Building regs can be hard to get retrospectively and it's a nightmare for lofts with all the requirements for fire doors, etc. you might end up taking some of floor/ceiling out to show correct strengthening/insulation has been used.

We aim to sort ours out but it will cost a lot to make right, and I will be refusing to comply totally- I'm not ripping out my traditional doors!

What I think I'm trying to say is that in our case it was ok, but we went in with our eyes open. I'd be getting the valuer back as well- the mortgage company will want to know.

skandi1 Wed 25-Jul-12 20:40:49

Don't get the seller to pay for the engineer. Surveys and such like are not warranted to 3rd parties only to those who have paid for the report.

Get it done yourself. If you really like the house it's worth it.

Part of the problem is that with most of the structure supporting the roof now being enclosed under plaster and board etc, it's not possible for an engineer or building control for that matter to see exactly how the conversion was carried out.

To take this on, you really have to love the house and have absolutely no doubts about it.

I would not accept indemnity insurance on this matter either. I would insist they apply for retrospective building control certificate and planning.

The indemnity insurance will not stop the council serving you with an enforcement notice in future. And it may not be possible to establish exactly how much value then will have been knocked off your home with fewer bedrooms.

Besides if you are forced to turn it back into a loft, will it still be spacious enough for you to live in??

tricot39 Wed 25-Jul-12 22:27:07

If it was only built a short while ago then ask for copies of the plans and specifications. It might still have been done to a good standard, but not necessarily got building regs. You can then ask the surveyor to review the plans and do an assessment visit. Ask him to provide a list of remedial work required and use that as a negotiating tool or walk if the work is excessive. It is much easier starting afresh and extending a house yourself than to sort out someone else's bodging.

It is interesting that this thread is running at the same time as the one about an illegal annex. I would find it easier accepting an illegal annex which is ancilliary accomodation, compared to illegal alterations to the main house enclosing essential accomodation. Not quite sure why though, so I will have to ponder that....

Viviennemary Thu 26-Jul-12 00:20:01

Just noticed this thread is from 2009. Why does this keep happening.

TalkinPeace2 Thu 26-Jul-12 14:26:20

because the building regs are a joke
insurers ignore them
councils ignore them
basically the vast majority of the building regs regulations should be abolished
they prevent novel and eco buildings and are THE BIGGEST impediment to homebuilding by individuals

Pendeen Thu 26-Jul-12 16:28:08

The Building Regs have a set of 14 'Approved Documents' most of which would apply to a loft converson especially if it has an ensuite. Most of them are quite lengthy and some are very complex.

If the original roof structure was substantially altered then a structural analysis should have been undertaken and structural calculations provided for the new timbers and (if necessary) steelwork. Other calculations would have been necessary for upgrading thermal insulation.

As an architect I must admit I do not like commissions for loft conversions because they can become very involved for not much fee (mercenary I know but that's life).

Are the vendors able to provide you with copies of the drawings and calculations?

If the work was done without any drawings at all the work quite possibly does not comply so, if it were me then I would back out quickly!

Pendeen Thu 26-Jul-12 16:30:11

Didn't notice the date.

Ah well!

lolalola19 Thu 09-May-13 19:36:54

Was wondering if anyone could help me - I am having a kitchen extension built and it is half way up. We have not had building regs but we are having a structural engineer to calculate the rsj that needs putting in during the knock through. Is this advisable at all or should we get the building regs done before it is too late?
We are not planning on selling the house at all.
Many thanks

LIZS Thu 09-May-13 19:40:13

Many councils will want to see it at different stages of build to check these sort of details . May be best to run it past them earlier than later.

Spero Thu 09-May-13 19:49:03

Be wary of indemnities.

I am in a similar position - bought my house in 2011. it had a kitchen extension, my solicitors raised no queries, i foolishly thought all was ok but now I am trying to sell it appears that no building regs were signed off.

Buyers solicitors are insisting I spend £200 on an indemnity - but all that covers is protection against enforcement action to remove structure in next 12 months - I rang the council and was told they cannot enforce after two years unless structure is unsafe.

I am in the process of trying to get the work signed off - the extension seems to be ok but there is a problem with the guttering which I have to remedy.

I am very pissed off as I certainly would have demanded my seller sought this out before I bought in 2011.

I would be very wary of buying a house that doesn't comply with regs because it will be a problem when/if you want to sell and I don't think the indemnity policies deal with the real problem - that you might have something structurally unsafe that could fall down.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now