House with potentially no Building Regs for Loft Conversion(8 Posts)
I wondered if somebody could help. I know there are probably a fair few posts on this sort of subject but I'm still unsure.
I recently viewed a property, which I loved, but it has an "attic room". The current owners say they don't know why the "attic room" could not be described as a third bedroom, as the work was done by previous owners and that they have never looked into it any further.
I don't mind if the attic room could never be a third bedroom, but the lack of clarity and the fact that it may not pass/have passed building regulations does cause me some concern.
My questions are:
1. How can I find out if the loft conversion has a building regulations certificate or meets buildings regulations?
2. If the loft conversion doesn't meet building regulations, what are the options?
I suspect the current owners do know whether there are buildings regs or not for the 'attic room' as it will have been flagged to them by their solicitor when they bought the property
Not an expert, this may be wrong. But I believe that if the building regs office at the council find out about it officially and it does not have approval they can require the current owners to put it back to how it was, at their own expense, and can prosecute to force this. When you purchase a house where there is doubt about building regs approval you can buy an insurance policy/indemnity to protect you against the costs of this, but that policy is invalid if you alert the building regs people yourself (don't ask don't tell). You can apply for retrospective approval if you are sure it meets the requirements (Google loft conversion building regulations) - things to check include height of ceiling above stair cases, width and steepness of staircases, clearance between stairs and doors, Fireproof materials, self-closing fire doors, independent fire escape route e.g. chain ladder that can be dropped to ground level from fully opening window. If you think the room will meet the regs you can get it regularised and all will be well. If you don't then either don't buy the house at all or buy it, buy an indemnity against getting found out and keep your mouth shut about it.
You can look at the planning site at the council. That should tell you if an application was made or not.
With regard to the term "attic room", there may not be a proper staircase up to it, rather that it is accessed via a loft ladder, also that there is a safe escape in case of fire, that the floor is sound and that there is sufficient sound insulation between this and the floor below.
I'd be surprised if owners' solicitor hadn't followed this up when they bought, especially if in last 10-15 years. How long ago was it done as it may not have been necessary to do buildings regs at that time. If you follow up with council and it didn't get signed off you wouldn't be able to get an indemnity policy. It almost certainly won't meet current regs as these update all the time. However there may already be a policy from the last sale which can be passed on. If you intend to use the attic as a bedroom it would still be worth having a builder check it for pitch of stairs, fire regs and insulation.
My dormer had building regs to be 2 bedrooms, when we first moved in. We recently converted it to be 1 bedroom with an ensuite, it is now described by the building regs certificate as a loft room with plumbing.
I did do a tiny extension on a house we once owned years ago. When we came to sell the surveyor for our buyers came round. I showed him all the certificates and told him they were on the table for him to look at, then left him to it. Our buyers mortgage was refused because there was no building regs for the extension. When I pointed out that there were building regs and that I had shown the surveyor the certificates and told him where he could look at them further if he needed to note anything down his reply was that he was there to survey the house not read paperwork. Sometimes you cannot win.
On the other hand I recently sold a flat that I had renovated. I moved the shower room, no building regs. The mortgage for the buyer went through immediately. I think saying the owners solicitors should have sorted it out previously is down to which individual surveyed the property in the first place.
We bought our house with a loft room, the staircase was in another bedroom. It had been done 20 years previously so no planning or building regs. We bought it knowing that to make it a loft bedroom we would have to rip it out-price we paid reflected that. You can buy it without building regs as it is a loft room without any problems, it can't be a bedroom without these. If you don't need it as a bedroom the buy it without building regs but to sell it as a bedroom you would have to rectify it.
Usually it cannot be classed as a bedroom unless it has building regs approval as previously stated - that normally also includes the addition of a bannister rail or a wall to stop people from falling down the hole.
The other problem is that most listing agents don't actually know the rules 100% so will often air on the side of caution so they don't get caught out by Consumer Protection Regulations (formerly Property Mis-descriptions Act 1991) which could leave them liable for legal recourse from any potential buyer.
Best course of action is to contact the local planning department and ask them about it. This kind of thing will affect house value.
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