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Certification etc of old extensions

(25 Posts)
MadBusLady Tue 09-Oct-12 21:26:53

We've seen a lovely house with a kitchen extension out the back and a loft conversion. These were already in place when the current owners moved in and they've been there 12 years. We haven't asked yet but I suspect, in the way of these things, that they won't have, eg. building regs certificates for the extensions. The extensions appear sound, I checked carefully for any cracks, signs of damp etc around the windows and where the walls/ceilings meet. The house was nicely kept and in good condition, but not very recently decorated, so I have no concerns that there has been "papering over the cracks".

Would you absolutely positively demand certification for these kinds of works as a condition of making an offer? Again, we haven't asked yet. But I have asked in the past and the enquiry hasn't had a great success rate.

Please say no this is the first house we've both really liked!

AlexanderS Tue 09-Oct-12 21:31:53

Whether or not the seller has the correct certification will come out when your solicitor does their checks, after you have made your offer.

If they don't meet building regs you don't necessarily have to pull out of the sale, though of course you'll want to find out how much it'd cost to make them good.

AlexanderS Tue 09-Oct-12 21:33:07

And maybe use it as a bargaining tool to negotiate a lower price!

lalalonglegs Tue 09-Oct-12 22:27:33

If they are older than 10 years old then, providing it is not a listed building or (I think) a conservation area, then the council cannot take enforcement action. Even if the works did pass building control standards x number of years ago, they probably wouldn't meet today's regulations as there have been so many changes so, as long as the work was structurally sound, it wouldn't bother me in the least.

tricot39 Tue 09-Oct-12 23:15:55

You can find out about the building regs history of a property by calling your local council building control. So it can be investigated before you spend money on a solicitor. You can then take this into account in your offer.

MadBusLady Wed 10-Oct-12 07:54:09

Thanks all, that's very helpful. Will give the council a call anyway, but generally am less worried. smile

Mamf74 Wed 10-Oct-12 09:10:33

Our last house had a kitchen extension on the back, and when we came to sell it the new buyer's solicitor was insisting on either confirmation of planning permission or for us to take out indemnity insurance.

We were lucky in that our solicitors when we purchased the house were really thorough and we had a copy of the planning application stamped & signed off (In 1978!) so we avoided indemnity, however had it not been available I think the indemnity they were quoting was about £300.


MadBusLady Wed 10-Oct-12 10:22:00

Ah, that's interesting. When we sold last time the buyer asked for us to pay for indemnity insurance against the (years ago) removal of the chimney breast in the front receps (which was still in situ in the room above).

AFAIR we ended up not paying it though confused so I've no idea how the solicitor squared that one. But I will push the point with them this time to get papers in place if possible.

AlexanderS Wed 10-Oct-12 13:09:46

If you give the council a call and it turns out building regs approval is not in place that will invalidate any indemnity insurance the seller offers you, as you will have put the council 'on notice'!

I'm in the process of buying a house with an extension that doesn't have building regs approval. The survey raised an issue with the extension, the solicitor's research confirmed that building regs approval was not in place. What we did was get a reputable builder to look at it and give us a quote for how much it's going to cost to bring it up not just to the standard it should have been when it was built but to modern standards, and then used this to negotiate a lower price. The seller is also going to give us indemnity insurance.

tricot39 Fri 12-Oct-12 19:36:18

alexanders has a point about potentially putting the council on notice but it depends on what question you ask. If you say "does the extension have permission?" then that would be notice. If you say "can you please give me the full building regs/planning history before i purchase?" then that is not notice....

PigletJohn Fri 12-Oct-12 21:09:59

A non-compliant loft conversion adds negative value to a house, because you have to allow for the cost of ripping it all out before doing it again properly.

It is not at all unusual for the timbers holding the roof together to have been cut, and the timbers holding the downstairs ceiling up to be overloaded when used as a floor.

It may not be properly insulated, and it may be a fire hazard.

I wouldn't buy it without evidence of PP and BC compliance.

MadBusLadyHauntsTheMetro Fri 12-Oct-12 21:52:35

Would you consider indemnity insurance inadequate in such cases, PigletJohn?

PigletJohn Fri 12-Oct-12 22:22:21

I don't know, but I think that the indemnity protects you against the (improbable) risk of being prosecuted for non-compliance with PP or BC.

I doubt it would pay the cost of demolishing a jerry-built extension and doing it again properly.

MadBusLadyHauntsTheMetro Fri 12-Oct-12 23:35:59

So really the upshot is that any extension of any age adds negative value (what a great phrase!) to a house, because as lalalonglegs pointed out, regs and permissions will have been different in the past. So even if you can produce certificates from 1980 or whenever, some or all of the dangers you suggest could still pertain to the extension (I presume excepting major things like cutting through supporting timbers).

PigletJohn Fri 12-Oct-12 23:59:26

I'm pretty sure that an extension or convetsion from 1980, if compliant and approved to the standards of the time, won't fall down. But like a 1980 house, it won 't meet modern standards for example of insulation.

The negative value applies to non-compliant building, which you are entitled to assume is unsatisfactory.

A 1980 house which was built with five bedrooms is always preferable to a three-bedroom house that has had another two stuffed in the roof.

MadBusLadyHauntsTheMetro Sat 13-Oct-12 08:58:36

Right, I think in that case it probably is worth my approaching the council with the general question. Thanks for help all! I honestly will buy a house one of these days...

noddyholder Sat 13-Oct-12 09:02:06

Don,t contact the council just get a really good structural survey. As long as its sound it certainly won,t de value the house and then you can get indemnity insurance although because of its age the council won,t do anything.

MadBusLadyHauntsTheMetro Sat 13-Oct-12 09:46:39

Structural surveys, are they the ripping-chunks-out-of-walls type ones? That could be tricky because of the other problem with the place. It's covered in bloody artex. My hunch is that's also about thirty years old and was done as part of the same "improvements" hmm as the extensions, so well within the timeframe for possibly containing asbestos. I gather that means any removal/disturbance has to be done in accordance with guidelines (ie wearing space suits etc) so that would be an extra expense.

AlexanderS Sat 13-Oct-12 10:07:30

Yes, indemnity insurance only absolves you from responsibility for the lack of planning permission/building regs approval, it doesn't cover you in the event of problems arising from structural defects.

I don't think what tricot said is right - if the council looks at the history of the building and finds the extension does not, for example, have building regs approval then of course they are going to make a note of that, regardless of whether or not you go on to buy the house (that is completely immaterial).

PigletJohn Sat 13-Oct-12 11:05:15

an ordinary survey will not take up the floors to measure the joists, or pull the plasterboard off to see if the roof timbers have been cut.

The reason an illegal conversion is so worrying, it's like getting into an illegal minicab at midnight. Has the driver got a licence? He is almost certainly uninsured. Does he know the way to your home? Will he overcharge you? Has his car got any brakes? Is he going to drive you down a dark alley? Is he going to fall asleep? If you've been drinking Bacardis all night you might not care.

AlexanderS Sat 13-Oct-12 12:58:24

I do agree PigletJohn - that is why we will have the extension on the house we're buying fixed as soon as we move in.

tricot39 Sat 13-Oct-12 19:26:30

If you dont tell the council the house has an extension then they will not "take note". In my line of work i have to check these records a lot. No one is "taking note" of anything, which is why enforcement action has not been taken and is unlikely to ever be taken.

Anyway i would not be fussed about putting them on notice because i wouldnt be buying the house without building regs! No structural survey can/will say it is safe so unless you can get money off to repair and start again then run for the hills.

Tbh i would be running from the artex asbestos.issue anyway as that is £££ on its own.

MadBusLadyHauntsTheMetro Sat 13-Oct-12 19:47:20

That is pretty much my current thinking, tricot. If the answer is "there's no BR" then I don't care that I've put them on notice cos I'll be out the door. The artex alone may be something we can cope with, if the price reduction is appropriate. It is an enormous, expensive hassle and mess to remove it (as distinct from plaster over it, which is not practicable if you intend to change kitchens, put up shelves, knock nails in etc).

But if we can afford the worst case scenario, we are at an advantage relative to other buyers. It's a family house, but we don't have kids yet and I can't imagine people with kids would be that keen on the idea of having men in space suits hosing down walls with chemicals for days on end, so it's either sell to us for what we can pay or prepare for a very long sit on the market.

Essentially this is what happened with our last house. We bought it with a dodgy cellar that nobody else wanted to touch, sorted it out using all our cash to do so and it did pay off.

When I mentioned it to the agent she was clearly up to speed with it, so knew it was the main issue with that house and that people were going to raise objections, either now or at survey stage.

tricot39 Sat 13-Oct-12 22:56:55

That sounds emminently sensible madbus

Inertia Sat 13-Oct-12 23:23:18

It will show up on the searches that the solicitor does.

As others have said, if you call the council they will be on notice - once the council have had their attention drawn to it, indemnity insurance becomes invalid.

The other thing to consider is that your mortgage lender is unlikely to lend without the correct PP and building control certs. We are buying a house with an extension with full PP and all inspections bar final passed, plus a lettter from building control guaranteeing no enforcement. Our mortgage lenders still won't approve it without the say so of the underwriter and aurveyor.

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