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Chimney breast removed with no building regs--now trying to sell???

(15 Posts)
thisfalseinsight Tue 09-Jun-15 20:16:02

Arrgh! We've accepted an offer on our house and have had an offer accepted on one we want to buy, so far so good. Today, however, our buyer's solicitor has asked if we have building regs approval for the removal of the chimney breast in our kitchen...which I had never even noticed. I went back to look at the inspection report produced when we bought the house, and yes, it was noted there, but I don't recall discussing it or it being flagged by our solicitor when we bought.

My first move was to call the council to check if any approval did actually exist (thinking, maybe we just don't have the documentation), but no luck. Of course now I understand that I've shot myself in the foot as indemnity insurance is no longer an option since I've notified the council of this issue (the solicitor blithely emailed me saying, Oh, you can just get an indemnity policy! Wish she had warned me not to call the council, grrr...).

Am I right that our only option now, if we want the sale to go through, is to have appropriate building work done? Does anyone know what we should expect to pay, and how quickly we could realistically expect to get this done? Has anyone else been in this situation? Do we have any other options? I don't understand why this didn't come up when we bought (only 5 years ago) but from everything I've read online it seems unlikely that we could just gloss over this as was apparently done when we bought.

Help, am panicking a bit as I'm afraid our sale is going to fall through over this!

ChishandFips33 Tue 09-Jun-15 20:44:36

We removed an entire chimney and were told we didn't need regs as it was from the stack down - is yours just the downstairs breast?

Could building control/surveyor come out and do an inspection to check if it was done properly? This may/will involve some remedial work I guess to expose the area

Missellie6 Tue 09-Jun-15 20:47:41

You can do a regularisation application with the council. They will want to check it is structurally sound and you may have to expose any beams inserted if you don't have the engineers drawings. This doesn't normally cost much more than a normal application and can be resolved very quickly if you have all the information to hand.

thisfalseinsight Tue 09-Jun-15 20:54:26

ChishandFips33, it's just the downstairs. I think we could have someone look at it but they would need to expose it. Would we need to get a builder in first to do that?

Missellie6, I looked at the application with the council but they wanted plans before and after...which of course I don't have. Do they expect that much detail even for something like this? Would they be able to advise what needs doing if it's not been done properly? Would it be best to have an experienced builder look at it first to advise if it's likely to be approved?

Sorry for the barrage of questions but I am rather clueless!

BlackbirdOnTheWire Tue 09-Jun-15 21:44:55

I went through this last week. Phoned up the council, building control guy came round the next morning, had a look, said everything seemed in order, three days later we had a completion certificate through the post. I was very very relieved...

BlackbirdOnTheWire Tue 09-Jun-15 21:45:58

Cost was c.£120 for the retrospective compliance procedure (building control guy plus certificate, all in)

BingBong36 Tue 09-Jun-15 22:00:59

If the whole breast was removed including the chimney on the roof then you do not need building regs.

TheCrowFromBelow Tue 09-Jun-15 22:05:42

Call the council and speak to building control. They'll tell you what is required and what the next steps are.

SwedishEdith Tue 09-Jun-15 22:07:21

This happened to us when we bought. We got an structural engineer to estimate how much it would to put it right and the vendor knocked that off the price. It was about £2,000 about 8 years ago. The chimney breast was removed probably 25+ years ago.

JKArchitect Tue 09-Jun-15 22:56:57

Any removal of structural elements within the home will require a building control officer to inspect and sign off. Have a chat with your local building control and ask them to come and inspect the work. You will have to pay a small inspection fee. This shouldn't take too long, depending on where you live.

thisfalseinsight Wed 10-Jun-15 07:34:39

Thanks, everyone--this is reassuring. BlackbirdOnTheWire and JKArchitect, does there need to be something visible that the inspection officer could look at? That's my concern--there is a boxed-in bit between the wall and the ceiling, which I assume means there is a beam, but I would think the plaster would need to be removed in order to expose the beam itself--as we didn't have the work done and have no record of it, I have no idea what's inside there. Our council is notorious for being very strict about building works and I worry that if I have someone out they will just tell me I need to have the beam exposed. Do you think I would need to have a builder or a structural engineer out first to help me figure out if the work was done properly?

JKArchitect Wed 10-Jun-15 11:16:03

Hi, it wont harm in getting a structural engineer to pop round to view, however you will require to do some opening up works, either in the ceiling from below or the floor below. Talk to your building control department first and ask their advice. If you need a structural engineer, message me and I can pass on some contacts that I use regularly.

HereIAm20 Thu 11-Jun-15 20:20:22

We had similar and had to go through the regularisation process.

Also you have a claim against your solicitor for failing to notify you that there were no building regs and failing to tell you that you could get indemnity insurance at that stage.

They will be insured themselves to cover their negligence but if a small amount will probably settle direct. There is a time limit to claim - 6 years from negligent act (ie. when they did the conveyancing) or 3 years from when you found out so bear this in mind too.

We went through the regularisation process (fee to council was about £800 alone) and then got the works done. Our total inc the fee was about £3000. We got out certificate in March and have settled with the Solicitors insurance company today. (Had to go to their insurers as the firm no longer trades).

Good luck. It may not be what you want to hear because I guess the buyer may pull out. However if you suffer loss because of that that would all be part of your claim against the solicitor especially if eventually you have to accept a lower offer!

BlackbirdOnTheWire Fri 12-Jun-15 12:01:45

Well there was absolutely nothing left visible from ours grin.

You don't need planning permission (if that's what BingBong is suggesting) but you do need a completion certificate, following building control approval (whether council or private).

In our case, builders took out the chimney breast over a decade ago and went bust during the work. We had major concerns about the work done and asked building control to take a look. They said it was unsafe (remaining stack clearly not properly supported). We had a leaking roof anyway so bit the bullet and had our loft converted with stack removal as part of the deal. We're now a few years on and checking the paperwork I realised that we had a completion cert for the loft but no mention of the chimney breast, which I assumed was still flagged as a problem on the council's records - as indeed it was.

So, building control came out to check that the chimney breast was properly removed and the remaining stack now properly supported, but of course neither chimney breast nor stack now exist, there's a new floor where previously there was a loft space, walls plastered etc. The BC officer asked about steels and I was able to tell him that we had definitely paid for RSJs(!) and I had seen them delivered though not installed. Having said that, I have absolutely no idea as to what the steels could have been supporting on that wall, given the stack was removed - I would assume that they were supporting the roof structure, not a bit of wall that was no longer there. I was very careful not to ask too many questions! He inspected all the walls on that side of the house and was happy that there were no signs of structural issues eg cracks; looked into the loft eaves to see the remaining exposed bit of party wall and was happy that seemed to have been reinforced properly; and looked from outside to check the roofline, state of roof etc. He did not ask to expose anything plastered or finished - but I'm not sure what could have been exposed.

I'm not sure if this is exactly the same as your case as it sounds like you may still have the stack? I did have a long chat with the head of building control over the phone first - once he was happy I wasn't trying to get anything past them, and simply wanted to know the best way forward given the circs, he was very helpful.

solenneguest Thu 20-Aug-15 09:48:52

Sorry to piggy back this thread but does anyone know if taking the floorboards up around a chimney breast to look for adequate support can be done without taking the whole room apart? Any idea how much it might cost to get someone to do it for us ahead of a structural survey? Or is their an easier way to see whether the chimney breast is supported without taking floorboards up?! Thank you :-)

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