Gaaahhhh! I knew this was going to happen! No planning permission/building regs :(

(47 Posts)
AngryFeet Fri 01-Mar-13 10:41:23

Offered on our first house on 10th Jan. Finally got our mortgage offer on Tuesday and called the solicitors today to make sure they were ready. They said the searches have come back clear and they are waiting to receive their copy of the mortgage offer. DH and I have been a bit concerned that there might not be planning permission on 3 things - conservatory, small flat roof one storey extension to dining room and a loft room that has a dormer window (not an official room but has been boarded/carpeted etc but we were just planning to keep it as a loft as I doubt the joists have been strengthened). We were concerned as on the Property Info Pack the vendor had put question marks and 'ask council' next to the questions about building changes and building control issues but then he checked the box saying there weren't

Anyway the solicitor knew nothing about any of these extensions as they had not been disclosed! She said she is writing to his solicitor now. We just spoke to our estate agent who is very pissed off and is on his way to speak to the vendor to find out exactly what is going on.

So our choices are:-

1) Get him to get retrospective planning permission and building regs (unlikely to pass at todays standards I guess).

2) Hope they are older than 4 years and get indemnity insurance (solicitor says if they are older than 10 years we don't even need to bother with the insurance - is that right?). I would also be tempted to get him to pay for a full structural survey if that is the case. This is all based on whether he did 'call the council' as stated on his notes of course! Lets hope he didn't.

3) Reduce our offer significantly to get it sorted out ourselves.

4) Walk away.

It is a great house in a perfect location and nothing else on the market at the mo in our price range.

Our home buyers survey is due back today as well so will see what that brings up.

Arrrggghhh I am so pissed off - although not surprised at all as I had a feeling it would go wrong at this point.


Svrider Fri 01-Mar-13 10:44:56

Relax wink
The vendor wants to sell. They have to sort this before you can exchange contracts IMHO
Remember this is their problem
Any buyer Is going to need this sorting
Fingers crossed

AngryFeet Fri 01-Mar-13 10:52:56

I know but we are living in my parents house which is on the market so we are a bit time limited so anything that needs sorting needs to be done fairly quickly or we will have to rent which is a nightmare around here.

Anyway I know it isn't our problem it is just frustrating sad

WhataSook Fri 01-Mar-13 11:03:02

ah AngryFeet, I was just reading your other thread and was very excited for you! (and did have a nosey at your link smile)

I agree with Svrider, try to relax, the solicitor is aware of it now (and knows they are perhaps not very forthcoming so hopefully will double check everything!). It's a slow process, you just need to be patient.

Does your parents house have an offer on it already? If not, then I'm pretty certain you've got time to get your house sorted and moved in before.

Pendeen Fri 01-Mar-13 11:34:57

" we are a bit time limited so anything that needs sorting needs to be done fairly quickly"

Not going to happen I'm afraid to tell you...

In the first place although it's probable that none of the work will need planning consent, building regs approval will be required for the extension and loft conversion.

As the owners have undertaken the work without consent its very likely:

(a) they had no idea consent was required therefore know nothing about the regs and if they used a builder rather than DIY, he didn't know much more.

(b) If they did know consent was required, why didn't they apply? Very suspicious.

(c) to find out what the reality is, the surveyor will have to examine the alterations in detail and guess at what he can't see e.g. foundations, drainage, insulation, vapour barriers etc. Most surveyors are scared of committing themselves without a lot of support and further investigations.

(d) the alterations will probably not conform but even if they do an application will have to be submitted which means someone preparing drawings and calculations.

(e) Either the council will accept and pass the application (but in relality that is not going to happen) or they will reject and insist on remedial work. They may even insist that the extension is demloished and rebuilt or the roof removed and recovered or altered.

(f) Either way they will have to inspect before a completion certificate is issued. Again, no guarantee at that stage that the remedial work is satisfactory.

You have now spent between 8 and 20 weeks or longer.

Insurance is almost always pointless because why on earth would you buy something which is probably substandard and from a vendor who has knowingly concealed something from you. What else are you likely to uncover?

What happens when you come to sell, you would then be in the position that your vendor is in? Why do that to yourself?

If I were in your position I would stop now and begin looking elsewhere.

Option (4) is the only sane one IMO.

AngryFeet Fri 01-Mar-13 11:40:10

Pendeen. You are right I know sad That is why I am so wound up because I know we need to walk away and that is £2k we can ill afford down the drain (solicitors fees and valuation/survey). So frustrating.

jammybean Fri 01-Mar-13 11:53:23

I have to agree with pendeen. Made an offer on a house several months ago where the vendor had extensively refurbished and extended a grade 2 listed house without proper consents then failed to declare it. We decided to pull out as we couldn't risk being stuck with a property that we couldn't sell in the future. We managed to recover our costs from the vendor and found another house soon after.

Retrospective planning will take months not weeks, and there's no guarantee the council would grant it.

Would the house still work for you without the loft or conservatory?

AngryFeet Fri 01-Mar-13 12:00:37

No I think it would be too small jammybean. The other option is to tell him to drop by enough to redo bits but I can't imagine he will be able to. Feel very sorry for the people further up the chain. Everyone is ready to exchange sad What a stupid man - did he really think people would not question this?

WhataSook Fri 01-Mar-13 12:04:30

sorry AngryFeet, obviousy Pendeen knows what they are talking about! (never bought a house that had an extension)

Good luck, hope you get something sorted soon.

GinAndSlimlinePlease Fri 01-Mar-13 12:06:04

I don't think you have to walk away. But before you buy you'll need to make sure that you have a full structural survey done, get indemnity insurance, and knock the cost of remedial work off for price you've offered.

As others have said, it's the seller's responsibility.

Bear in mind it will affect the selling on.

GinAndSlimlinePlease Fri 01-Mar-13 12:08:33

I would also say, it's for the seller to provide the insurance. And have a discrete chat with a planning officer.

Pendeen Fri 01-Mar-13 12:14:50

Sorry to hear about the expense AngryFeet and I agree it's very frustrating all round, he is indeed a very silly man.

I have often thought that vendors should be held to account and was therefore very pleased to hear of jammybeans success with her rogue vendor - well done indeed!

PigletJohn Fri 01-Mar-13 12:33:00

A non-compliant conversion or extension adds negative value to a house, because you have to factor in the cost of ripping it out, as well as the cost of doing it again properly.

mistlethrush Fri 01-Mar-13 12:37:45

Probably you would not need to apply for planning permission as it would be Permitted Development - this sort of thing normally is, provided it meets certain requirements - this could quite easily be checked out by contacting the local council. The issue will be Building Regs - but it would be up to your vendor to provide the necessary insurance to get those confirmed or get the work redone to meet required standards.

ILikeBirds Fri 01-Mar-13 12:55:54

Insurance only indemnifies against the council taking legal action. Highly unlikely and there's a 2 year time limit on this for building regs. It doesn't protect you from the cost of putting anything right should the roof start leaking because the pitch is too shallow or if the extension starts to come away from the house because it's not been tied in properly etc.

jammybean Fri 01-Mar-13 17:41:14

Angryfeet in that case I would pull out. It was the same in our case too. I know it is very frustrating and as much as you want this house. You will find another which will most likely be even better. Saying this as someone who has had 2 previous purchases fall through and now currently on the third purchase which turns out to be the dream house without too many compromises.

<fingers crossed>

Pendeen We only managed to recover the costs after a few stern letters from our solicitor, both to the agent (who were advising us to proceed regardless) and to the vendor. It did get a little unpleasant but we also threatened to inform the council of the lack of consent etc. It still makes me cross!

impecuniousmarmoset Fri 01-Mar-13 18:43:47

You're sure these weren't done years and years ago? I only ask because some vendors who bought a friend's house wanted to see evidence of bregs/planning for the kitchen 'extension' and removal of the dividing wall between the two living rooms. Two changes which most victorian terraces round here had done to them at least 40 years ago, if not 60!

PigletJohn Fri 01-Mar-13 19:02:28

BRegs applied 40 years ago.

AFAIK 60 years ago as well

As rule of themb, if a builder or DIYer does some work which is subject to regulations, and avoids them, it is because he has not done the work to the standards required.

impecuniousmarmoset Fri 01-Mar-13 20:00:21

pigletjohn but what honestly are the chances of laying your hands on any 60-year-old paperwork proving it?!

impecuniousmarmoset Fri 01-Mar-13 20:03:14

Eventually surely you have to just trust to the building survey. Our first house was originally a 2-up 2-down terrace. At some point in the last 120 years a kitchen was added, but who on earth knows when! If we'd asked for documentation for it we'd have been laughed out of the door (as indeed were the buyers I mentioned earlier).

PigletJohn Fri 01-Mar-13 20:20:46

when I was selling family house recently, I went to council's website to track down applications for alterations. They still had on file applications from the 1960's up and down the road, with brief description and status.

The website actually said "seach applications since 1990" but they must have recorded the summary (but not copy documents) from earlier.

(I just had another look, and there is an application in that road showing from 1953. It says

Planning Application Ref:

Site Location:
40 blogs street

Registration Date:

Decision Date:

Application Type:
Full Planning Permission



Decision Date:

I presume you would have to go to the town hall to look at paper files or microfilm

The buyer's solicitors must have looked as well because they asked if I had the papers relating to some building work in 1958.

notcitrus Fri 01-Mar-13 20:24:07

Depends how much you care about the standard of the extensions. We were in this situation, though we'd asked our solicitor immediately, and eventually the council confirmed they couldn't make us knock the extension down.
So despite the surveyor being scathing about the "substandard single skin extension" we figured it would work until we wanted to knock it down and rebuild properly. So used the full structural survey to knock a bit more off the price and have been happily living here for years.

Hoping to knock the kitchen down and rebuild this summer...

southnorwoodmum Fri 01-Mar-13 20:29:48

Hm, I bought 2 bed old terrace house 4 years ago. It had old (perhaps 20-40 year old) conservatory and my solicitor did not raise any concerns but I don't remember seeing planning permissions either. I have replaced old wooden windows with UPVC since. Am I in trouble? (permission-wise)?

AngryFeet Fri 01-Mar-13 20:33:22

Loft room was done in 1967, conservatory in 1990 and small extension in 1996. My main concern lies with the fact that we may struggle to sell even though that will probably not be for 10+ years. Survey has come back pretty much clear with no level 3's. I would want someone to look at the structural integrity of the extensions. In 2 minds. DH has spent the afternoon doing research and talking to his uncle who is high up in a planning dept (not the same area as us smile) and he says he thinks we should go ahead and buy confused. Waiting to hear his gems of wisdom on this one!

southnorwoodmum Fri 01-Mar-13 20:34:36

Was the building permission really required? Look [[ here]

southnorwoodmum Fri 01-Mar-13 20:34:50
AngryFeet Fri 01-Mar-13 21:04:00

Right so loft room no big deal as we wont use it as anything but a loft. Conservatory didnt need building regs as it is seperated by external wall and door. Planning permission would have been needed but being over 20 years ago there is no comeback but indemnity insurance will be paid for anyway. No planning permission needed on small extension due to size the only issue is no building regs.

Chances are we will extend downstairs and the conservatory will come down anyway and probably the small extension.

Dhs uncle says at this point over 20 years down the line we wont have an issue with any of it.

southnorwoodmum Fri 01-Mar-13 21:13:36

I may be wrong but by the sound of it it does not look major or damaging so I would probably go ahead (but do the structural survey)

AngryFeet Fri 01-Mar-13 21:21:05

We have spoken to a couple of structural engineers who have said they will happily come and look and charge £500 for the pleasure but since it has been there so long and there are no cracks etc there is little chance of there being anything wrong.

AngryFeet Fri 01-Mar-13 21:45:28

Anyone else? Really stuck as to what to do. DH says we should go ahead.

jaynebxl Sat 02-Mar-13 06:45:20

I'd go ahead if his uncle thinks it is ok and if you will probably get rid of the extension and rebuild anyway. In that case you would (presumably) get the building regs for your extension done properly and have no problem selling on.

Sparklegeek Sat 02-Mar-13 17:10:17

I am in a similar position to southnorwoodmum - my house (currently on market) has an old extension/conservatory (not sure what it would be classed as, on our searches when we moved in the plans show it being there in 1971 & it is drawn in as cross-hatch?) Anyway, we replaced the old rotten windows & door with double-glazing a few years ago, have FENSA certs but should we have got planning permission? (Rest of house is double-glazed).

DorisIsWaiting Sat 02-Mar-13 17:32:07

I would go ahead especially if you are planning an extension in the future. (You could even get the loft room up to spec when you do the extension).

Do IT!

Potterer Sat 02-Mar-13 17:41:43

It has clearly been up for a long time and shows no signs of cracks etc so I personally would still go for it.

I think £500 for a professional once over by a structural engineer is a bargain so why don't you ask the vendor to go halves?

We bought a house with non-Fensa fitted windows and we knew the vendors were lying about when they were fitted so we had indemnity insurance but to be truthful I wasn't bothered.

If the house ticks all the boxes and you still love it, buy it and make it your home.

PigletJohn Sat 02-Mar-13 19:14:57

It probably won't fall down, but don't value it as if it was a compliant extrension.

You have to assume that quality of build, insulation and electrical standards etc are poor. A house with proper work would be worth more.

AngryFeet Sat 02-Mar-13 19:40:45

Another house on that road the same size minus the extensions sold last year for the same price that we are paying. It did have slightly nicer decor but just a bit more modern. Kitchen and bathroom the same and flooring/carpets same just nicer wallpaper paintwork. Not sure if it is worth knocking money off at this stage as it is minimal difference.

PigletJohn Sat 02-Mar-13 19:55:27

well you should certainly knock money off the vendors asking price if he was fraudulently offering it for sale as approved building work.

AngryFeet Sat 02-Mar-13 22:07:53

We are not paying the asking price. To be honest I think he is just a bit away with the fairies, I dont think he was deliberatley concealing info. But I dont know for certain. How long would the mortgage take to redo if the value was decreased?

impecuniousmarmoset Sat 02-Mar-13 22:49:12

"they asked if I had the papers relating to some building work in 1958".

If my buyer's solicitors had asked a question like this, I'd have fallen off my chair. Have others seriously had questions about documentation for alterations going back 50 years when buying houses? I'm quite prepared to believe it happens - I've just never heard of it in any of my (fairly extensive) house-buying/selling experience.

PigletJohn Sat 02-Mar-13 23:46:20

My family had lived there for three generations, so if they'd all been hoarders, I might have had them.

Hardly relevant, though, since the house was later changed back to how it had originally been.

Pendeen Mon 04-Mar-13 00:53:58

Buying a property is always a gamble.

The vendor has not proved to be entirely honest. There are known problems with the house. As I said above, what else may be concealed.

The work does not comply and has obviously been done on an amateur basis.

You have doubts and, if or when you come to sell then your potential buyers will probably have doubts.

Do you really want that? Are you so set on buying this house? Can you accept the worry?

Then go ahead and buy but with your eyes wide open...

AngryFeet Mon 04-Mar-13 07:58:21

As I said upthread Pendeen we will be knocking down the things that might cause problems for selling the future. We will get a structural engineer to look over it anyway but our aim is to extend in 4 years anyway.

I think the house has actually been kept in good condition and I don't think there is any more chance of their being problems with this house than any other. I mean my parents house has an extension that is literally falling off the house but they just keep replastering and repainting the wall with the giant cracks. At least with this house there is no way in hell he has redecorated since about 1980 so nothing has been covered up.

perrinelli Mon 04-Mar-13 12:44:03

How's it going angryfeet, are you sticking with the property?

I've been reading with interest as we're in a similar situation with our prospective purchase though possibly slightly worse in some ways as we wouldn't plan to knock down the offending bits, on the other hand the vendors have not really tried to conceal anything or lie.

Issue 1 - There is a large kitchen extension c1986 with a flat roof which is suspended concrete. Above on the upper storey It was originally a covered terrace/loggia thing with a proper roof but at some point they filled in the walls and put in a lot of windows so its mostly enclosed with a small balcony. It's not insulated & they call it a 'sun room'. Surveyor said no sign of movement or cracking but concerned if the concrete floor can take the weight.

Issue 2- smallish sort of sun room/conservatory 2009, flat roof and made a sun terrace on top and have laid STONE paving on top!! Surveyor v concerned it can't take the weight.

Issue 3 - loft room, joists not reinforced or anything.

No planning permission or building regs for any of it. Wondering if we should run a mile, or whether its still ok at the right price. Not much else on the market now and we have buyers ready to go.

Pendeen Mon 04-Mar-13 14:23:36

perrinelli - re your queries, may be of interest to see my comments at 1.3.13 @11.34 relating to what might be the result of buying a property with unapproved work...

As many have said, there are many alternatives and lots of suggestions on here however knowing what can and often does happen means you are in a stronger position when negotiating and decisions are made with the full knowledge of the risks.

AngryFeet Mon 04-Mar-13 18:35:33

We have decided to go ahead perrinelli. Yours sounds more concerning though with the surveyors comments. Did you get a structural survey?

racmun Mon 04-Mar-13 18:54:47

I'm a property lawyer and sympathise. I'll give you the advice I'd give my clients

A couple of years ago, indemnity insurance was flying around everywhere and seen as a quick fix, which it isn't.

Planning issues will go away after the effluxion of time but building regulations will continue to be an issue.

There is a misguided notion that if it's been there for 12 months it's ok. It's not it just means the local authority can't automatically take enforcement action against you for not get building regs. They can however take action if the building is unsafe.

Now to your survey, what type of survey did you have?
I don't think a full structural survey will actually help and they will prob advise you to refer to a structural engineer on anything they're not sure about so your first port of call should be to get quotes from a structural engineer.

Then it comes to your mortgage- issues such as this seriously affect value and therefore your solicitor must report it to them. Eg a 2 bed is worth a lot less than a 3 bed. If you solicitor doesn't do this they risk bring sued my mortgage co- happy times......

Also let's say you get it through this time, you may want to sell in the future and it I'd likely the same problems will arise then.

I personally would insist on retrospective consent if they can't get it i personally would walk away and breathe a sigh of relief..... £2k wasted is better buying a problem house.

Indemnity insurance is on my opinion ok on something like a window without a FESNSA cert but anything structural would be a no go.

perrinelli Mon 04-Mar-13 19:29:41

Thanks for the useful advice and opinions. We've had a full building survey (structural one). Not had report yet but had a phone chat with the surveyor today. He has recommended for one part (but with the roof terrace paved in stone) that we get the roof opened up to see the construction. He had lots of questions about the 1980s extension with 'sun room' above but no obvious signs of movement.

My feeling is that the owners haven't tried to conceal things but have just been a but foolish & generally seemed to take the attitude they could do whatever they liked with their house.

Surveyor seemed to think indemnity might be an option but that it would involve the mortgage company sending someone out to say if its suitable for indemnity.

I'm starting to feel that it could be a problem house that's hard to shift.

I'm also concerned that if we wanted to do anything in future/do any remedial works we might feel we couldn't because of fearing action from the planning dep/building regs people on otter bits of the house.

I don't think getting retrospective is an option really, not at all sure they would get it granted.

It's a very special plot with a fair bit of land (woodland on a slope) and beautiful view. That's what's got us this far and what's stopping us from running away straight away!

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