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Loft conversion doesn't meet building regs

(15 Posts)
KikiShack Sun 26-Jul-15 22:12:25

I'm buying a 5 bedroom house but fil who was a builder and has just seen it thinks it isn't compliant.

Two immediate things
1) no fire safety doors or other fire escape
2) the stairway was cut into the ceiling of the roof space in such a way that it doesn't leave enough clear headroom to be compliant- a tall person has to stoop a little.
I don't really care BUT
a) I'm paying a 5 bedroom house price (600k+) and if I'm not getting something I can sell on as a 5 bedroom place in thr future that's not on. If I did the shonky conversion myself I wouldn't mind but surely this should be sold and priced as a 4 bed?
b) the question of build regs was raised by my solicitor, their reply was that regs weren't needed. A quick google tells me this is wrong. Why is fil picking this up bit not my solicitor? Can I trust him on anything?
c) related to b- I asked solicitor about a tree having a TPO - he sent question over, vendor replied 'apparently not'- apparently is not acceptable in a legal contact surely? I queried ťhe confidence we should have in such an ambiguous answer and nu solicitor THEN informed me the info woyld be contained within the searches he'd already carried out. So 10 seconds later be could confirm no TPO. Why wasn't he more proactive on this himself?
Thoughts much appreciated

PigletJohn Sun 26-Jul-15 22:18:46

a non-compliant conversion 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.

It might or might not have adequate insulation and a strengthened floor and fireproofing. Probably not. If it was not built to regulations you have to assume that every corner was cut.

Spend your money on a house that does not have a conversion, and have it done (properly) yourself. Or, even better, just buy a slightly bigger house with no conversion required.

fuctifino Sun 26-Jul-15 22:20:07

The survey should pick up that it's not built to standard regulations.
If you are buying with a mortgage, they may well refuse to lend on it until it has been signed off by the building regulations.

ICantDecideOnAUsername Sun 26-Jul-15 22:23:25

From what you've said I would avoid both the house and the solicitor.

EldonAve Sun 26-Jul-15 22:25:00

Solicitor doesn't give confidence

Depending on when the loft was done the regs are different - ours has no doors or fire escape and complied at the time. If done now it wouldn't pass

oddfodd Sun 26-Jul-15 22:29:33

My loft conversion has neither fire door or fire escape. It is properly insulated etc though but was converted before the regs changed.

It doesn't affect the price negatively although I wouldn't count it as a proper bedroom

PigletJohn Sun 26-Jul-15 23:03:17

But if you have a conversion with building regs approval, even if old, it is better than one without.

GerbilsAteMyCat Sun 26-Jul-15 23:08:31

How old is the loft conversion? We had one done 5 years ago and building regs were v strict. There did have to be enough clearance at the top of the stairs for someone 5 foot 10 I believe and while we do not have a fire door, we have a door at the bottom of the stairs that closes the room off.
I would run away.

KikiShack Mon 27-Jul-15 22:39:31

Thanks for your advice.
I've noticed this issue was actually in the legal questions part of my homebuyers report. The solicitor told me weeks ago he'd be looking at the things raised but no explicit update on this and he didn't mention it at all when I saw him for a chat on Friday. He said the purchase is progressing well.

I'm interested: given it was raised as an issue for legal to clarify in the homebuyers report , given he acknowledged in writing he had the homebuyers report and would work his way through the questions raised. It seems a reasonable assumption he is on top of it and it's fine.
IF he had actually forgotten this one and we went to exchange then compete without realising this was unresolved, in the future what would our situation be regarding this if we came unstuck when reselling the place- would we be able to sue him for not doing his job properly?

I'm not planning to do this! Just wondering if our seller might be in this position.

I have emailed my solicitor concerns but not mentioned this should already be on his radar from the homebuyers report. I'll be interested in whether he immediately tells me he's on it or if he makes out this is a new issue. I might be tempted to argue against paying all the fees if this concludes abortive as a result of him missing something flagged to him over a month ago.

I'm aware i might be catastrophising as this has been dragging on a while as has my sale so I'm seeing the worst case scenario for everything at the moment.

Any views appreciated. (On legality etc, not my dramatic tendencies )

titchy Mon 27-Jul-15 22:50:43

I'd pull out unless vendor can get retrospective building reg approval. Going ahead without could be a very expensive mistake and you'd have a battle to argue the solicitor was fully liable.

CrazyOldBagLady Mon 27-Jul-15 23:01:42

We were unsure about our loft conversation before we bought the house, but we were able to get records from the council (the name of the department escapes me).

unlucky83 Mon 27-Jul-15 23:39:17

I think it really depends on how old the conversion is ....if it met with the regulations when it was done - if there were any!
Think small old cottages/houses have incredibly steep and narrow stairs - they were common place but are not compliant with modern regulations - but you don't need to change them to sell.
If you did do alterations you may end up having to try and remedy the problem...
My brother bought a 3 bed terrace house to renovate. Hard to describe but 60 or so years before they had put an indoor bathroom in basically over the top of the stairs, they had made the (already steep) stairs steeper and lost a lot of head room - if you were 5ft tall you would have to duck going down! Added to that you had to go through a bedroom to get the bathroom. My brother came up with a way of re-jigging the layout which would be better but it involved turning the staircase. Building control said the new stairs had to be fully compliant...so even less steep than the ones before it had been altered for the bathroom fitting. It caused him all kinds of grief and he ended up losing a bedroom for a bathroom (but then he knew that may be a possibility so not the end of the world). He could have left it as it was - bathroom through a bedroom and incredibly steep, no head room stairs and it would have been fine from a building control pov...confused.
I also knew someone with an old victorian house that had a loft conversion done probably in the 1960s or 70s. The stairs literally went through a hole in the floor in the loft bedroom ...no doors or rails etc around (friend put a barrier round part of it at the top to to stop anyone falling down the hole half asleep in the dark!)

RaphaellaTheSpanishWaterDog Tue 28-Jul-15 00:22:49

Our last house (non-listed Georgian) had two attic bedrooms accessed by a steep staircase with severely restricted head-height and no fire door. In fact in a scenario rather like that mentioned by unlucky when we purchased there was a second very narrow staircase leading up from the first floor master bedroom through a hole in the floor of attic bedroom five - we removed this and the 'Heath Robinson' style trap door at floor level soon after purchase and blocked up the opening.

When we purchased (2011) the house was marketed as having six bedrooms which included the two attic rooms and a ground floor annex bedroom. As we weren't getting a mortgage there was no lender to satisfy, but our solicitor never queried this and (whilst we didn't have a survey) our architect raised no questions over the stability of the structure.

We sold last year after a major refurb (having obtained building regs completion certificates for all works we carried out) and our buyers' lender and surveyor had no issues with the loft conversion. We marketed the house as a five bed, having reconfigured the annex.

Afaik building regs came in during the 1960s and our loft conversion predated this by very many years, and whilst it wouldn't pass muster with today's regs, to rip it out would be to destroy the character of the building and remove an important part of its history. There are many ancient buildings with even more rickety staircases/attic rooms than ours!

So I guess it does depend on when the loft was converted as well as how structurally sound it is......

PigletJohn Tue 28-Jul-15 00:47:17

In London, I think it was about 1666.

PigletJohn Tue 28-Jul-15 00:48:23

no, I was wrong

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