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Should we pull the plug at this late stage?

(23 Posts)
KikiShack Sun 09-Aug-15 20:21:08

House in question is a 1930s detached beautiful art deco house. Advertised as 5 bedrooms, price agreed at 620k.
Had our offer accepted in may, had lots of to and fro over the survey (lots of issues flagged and investigated to death, lots of smallish things which will need attention but at 500-1000 each they all add up.

In the survey it was flagged that the loft conversion building regs/completion certificate should be checked.
This never got resolved. We finally got round to chasing this up and the vendor started by saying no planning permission or building regs were needed.
We replied that pp agreed, but to call it a bedroom they do need to meet building regs at the time it was converted.

Vendors can't provide any info on when it was converted. They have building regs for a window they installed in the loft. They 'assumed' this is enough.

We have checked with the council and it isn't enough.

So.... the house is a 4 bedroom with a clean loft. Therefore we are now only willing to pay the price of a 4 bedroom in the area which is about 560k tops.

There is no way the vendor will accept 560. They've already told us there's no mileage in moving the price any more.

We plan to also offer as an alternative to get some quotes to make it compliant (fil estimates could be 15-50k depending on whether structural stuff is needed) but oh's view is that we would have to take more than the cost of the work off since we'd be bearing the risk and the inconvenience of the work. Again I'm 100% sure vendor won't agree to this.

Are we right to offer only these two options or AIBU? I've been running it round in my head and discussing with so many people I can no longer judge what's reasonable.

It seems likely it will all fall through. I almost think there's no point putting these offers to the vendor, but I want to feel we've done everything we can to try and make it work. The annoying thing is we want to move asap so we can start TTC number 2 and there are no other houses that meet our criteria at the moment- they don't come up often. But that feels like not reason enough to buy a house for that much of an overprice.

Rant/sympathy seeking over

KikiShack Mon 10-Aug-15 17:28:34


LIZS Mon 10-Aug-15 17:32:34

How much would you need to do to make it "habitable". If the basis are ok then you could negotiate on the basis of the remaining cost. EA has misdescribed so is culpable too.

MyPelvicFloorTrainsItself Mon 10-Aug-15 17:35:18

Hmmmm, I think I would pull out tbh.

DelBoyImNot Mon 10-Aug-15 17:37:48

I'd say it's more reasonable to ask for cost of making the loft inhabitable. It's not quite a 4 bed, since the potential for another room is clearly there.

As you say the vendors may say no but I'd ask anyway just so you felt you've done all you can.

House hunting becomes so much less fun with family timings and requirements to consider. And wilfully idiotic vendors

DelphiniumBlue Mon 10-Aug-15 17:57:19

As far as I can recall, absence of building regulations consent is not normally enforceable more than a year after the works are completed unless the structure is rendered unsafe.

So you need to know when the works were carried out ( before current vendor purchased? They must know the answer to that one! )You may find that neighbours will give you information

It may be that there are crossed wires - I'm wondering what work was done other than putting in the window. Or was that a later addition? What about stairs etc?

A surveyor should be able to advise, and to confirm whether the building is safe.

You can get indemnity insurance ( one off payment) providing that the locally authority haven't been alerted to the absence of compliance. You can also get retrospective consent in some circumstances - again the surveyor should be able to advise.
I don't quite see how the EA is culpable - how would they know what consents are need or existing? That is a matter for the lawyers and surveyors.

caroldecker Mon 10-Aug-15 18:39:27

You should make the offer to the vendor and talk to the EA to advise them that everyone offering on the house will have the same issue.

Momzilla82 Mon 10-Aug-15 20:30:46

Personally. If you like this house. Are planning to stay in it for a while, then you should be prepared to pay more than the price of a 4 bed because it is more than that, but not the price of a 5 bed. The problem then becomes how far between those two goal posts you settle. If you're planning to be in there a long time and you don't think there is likely to be much coming on the market that will meet your needs, then just go for it. A house is only "worth" what someone is willing to pay for it. Aside from formal buildings / planning permission regs for the attic, are you happy with the house? In which case. Buy and move on: I fear you may just be in that final nervy stage of house buying where you get analysis paralysis. It's totally understandable. Good luck! flowers and housewarming wine

KikiShack Mon 10-Aug-15 22:09:57

Thanks for the replies - they're all concluding slightly different things and I think I've been at every stage from Momzilla's acceptance because it fits the bill to carol's hoping the EA will convince the vendor, to DelBoy's view that just the cost of the work is reasonable and I'm currently sitting at Pelvic's pulling out.

OH and FIL are strongly of the view that we need more than just the cost of the work off because we'll have to live through the work and bear the risk of anything going wrong etc. FIL is a retired builder and a stubborn git who hates old houses so is against us from the start! But he knows his stuff and is the reason this got flagged before signing- our solicitor vaguely raised it but didn't chase an answer and accepted their 'we assume the new window certificate makes the whole room habitable'

Their view is that any house with a loft has potential, and the cost to repair this non compliant attempt may well be more than the cost to do it from scratch. We won't know until we get quotes.

Delphinium thanks for your detailed response. Feel free to not reply obv but I'll answer your questions!

We have no idea when the work was carried out. Current vendors moved in ~2010 and they say it wasn't them. We don't love in the area at the moment so can't really manage visits to hassle the neighbours!

Window was put in and also loft insulation. Both these items passed buildings regs. But so what? a shabby shed with a fancy window and good insulation on part of its roof is still a shabby shed... A proper staircase is installed, again no idea when it was done but it's not compliant (headroom). And to move it to mke headroom clearance good will necessitate another window because of where it will be moved to.

Surveyor advised if no regs then we should get either a structural engineer to comment on safety or loft conversion companies to quote for the entire work including any safety necessary. Any thoughts on whether this is correct very welcome - it seems to me therefore a loft conversion company will do a free structural survey which seems wrong?

I've read elsewhere on MN that an indemnity policy isn't useful for this since it won't pay for the work to be done unless we're randomly inspected.

It's all about our resale. If we suck it up and the next people refuse to we're ~60K down. That's just too big a risk to take for us. Of course it might all be fine, but we can't know so we can't gamble. OH calls himself Captain Sensible and has very good self-awareness!

At least getting it all down here might help me let go tonight and sleep. I've developed insomnia since this has all started and am on some hardcore sleeping pills so I'll need that 60K to feed my new addiction if this doesn't get solved soon.

hereandtherex Tue 11-Aug-15 10:16:45

Its a 4bed house with a unfinished loft conversion.

Explain to the vendor's EA and offer accordingly.

LIZS Tue 11-Aug-15 10:39:26

It may not meet current building regulations but could well have done so at the time.

minibmw2010 Tue 11-Aug-15 13:41:27

If they cannot/will not provide building regulations then it is not a 5 bed, it's a 4 bed with an extra staircase. Do put this to them, don't just walk away. You may be the second, third, fourth lot to get to this stage, You don't know what they will accept offer wise unless you actually ask. Aside from that, I do think asking for money off just because you will be living there while the work to Make Good is done is a bit much.Good luck!

eleventybillion Tue 11-Aug-15 15:37:36

Just a word of caution having been through a similar experience.

It is not true that there is a time limit on building regs. The council can (and in my case did) enforce compliance at any time if they believe there to be a safety issue. That can (and in my case did) involve threats of prosecution.

Mine ended very badly. It was not possible for my loft room to meet building regs (safety issue related to not being able to install fire doors not anything structural) so it had to be turned back into a loft (that meant taking out the stairs). It caused a lot of cost and pain (not helped by the indemnity insurance not being right due to my incompetent solicitors).

Knowing what I know now I would never take on any property that didn't have the right building reg certificates. And I would never allow a solicitor to persuade me that it would be ok, very common, just accept this indemnity insurance ...

Sadly I am now older, wiser and poorer as a result of a very painful process.

mygrandchildrenrock Tue 11-Aug-15 15:43:21

I think it must depend on individual authorities whether or not there is a time limit on building regs. We once converted a double garage into a granny flat, with no building regs. When we sold we checked with the council and were told, in writing, that building regs were not needed because of the length of time the conversion had been done.
If you want the house, pay the price agreed, if not don't and look elsewhere.

Lokina Tue 11-Aug-15 16:04:11

If you really like the house and this is the only issue, you just ask the vendors to take out an indemnity policy insuring against the risk that the LA comes to enforce the lack of buildings regs consent.

These policies are cheap (because it is quite rare for a LA to turn up an enforce this sort of thing long after the event), and quite common; I have bought 2 properties with this type of policy in place.

I'm surprised your conveyancing solicitor hasn't suggested this tbh.

The policy stays with the property, not the individual taking it out, so you say to your vendors that you will only buy the property if they give you the benefit of an indemnity policy. Job done. I can't do links but a big provider of this type of policy is Countrywide Legal Indemnities. You can't go to them direct, the vendors' solicitor will have to.

hereandtherex Tue 11-Aug-15 16:33:32

No. People are confusing planning -where, after x years, you will not have a problem, with building regs which AFAIK never expire/get around.

Planning is LA process.

Building regs are there to stop the house falling down, catching fire etc etc.

EldonAve Tue 11-Aug-15 16:41:51

I would try at 560 and if not pull out

LIZS Tue 11-Aug-15 16:42:23

If op has already consulted the council they are no longer eligible for an indemnity policy.

KikiShack Tue 11-Aug-15 18:53:25

Council was consulted as a hypothetical situation by our solicitor, he was careful not to link it to us.

We offered 570, vendor has said no and suggested she contact the council herself to get a quote of what it needs and how much. So she's shutting off the indemnity policy route herself. We're happy with this- it looks like she's been screwed herself when she bought but a) that's not my problem and b) it might help her accept that she has no choice but to go for a lower figure.
She's downsizing so hopefully the lower figure won't ruin her life. We've met her looking round the place and she's really nice and I feel awful but obv not awful enough to overlook tens of 000s of pounds. I feel heartless saying not my problem but my head is clear enough to rule and realise we're doing the only thing possible.

Fingers crossed!

Thanks for all the advice and opinions

KikiShack Tue 11-Aug-15 18:59:40

And eleventybillion what a fucking nightmare, I really feel for you. That's the worst case scenario which we don't for a second believe will happen but we need to safeguard against.
I hope the issue is behind you now and it hasn't ruined too much of your life!

QuiteLikely5 Tue 11-Aug-15 19:16:06

Even a loft conversion adds value. Fair enough contact the council and see what can be done.

Your blowing the bedroom thing out of proportion imo.

Floor space, especially liveable is going to cost £££££ and increase the price. Always.

I doubt that extra room increased the house by the amount you want it reducing.

Similarly you seem to have had quotes for lots of other things mentioned on the report. Honestly all houses are going to have things on the report bar new builds of course.

Just because the stairs are too narrow doesn't mean you can't use it as a bedroom!

Ridingthegravytrain Tue 11-Aug-15 19:34:26

When we bought our house they had done the extension and loft a good few years before. It had to pass building regs inspection before we could (or would) buy it. I can't remember if this was something that was legally flagged up or something the vendors did for us. I'm pretty sure it was instructed via the solicitors though. I remember because they had to put up a stud wall and door to the dining room to pass (which they asked if we subsequently wanted removing...we did!)

eleventybillion Tue 11-Aug-15 20:39:53

Sounds like you've got it covered kiki. Getting a full picture before making any binding commitment is definitely the right way to go. That way you know exactly what's involved - hopefully it will turn out to be relatively straightforward to get it regularised (although the stair issue might be tricky).

Thankfully my nightmare is all behind me now and all sorted.

I think people don't realise how badly things can go wrong and what it involves ...

Dealing with the council (always fun)
Engaging architects, builders and structural engineers to create plans, uncover the works, do the calculations and take any remedial action (the onus is on you to prove the work is safe which is hard to do when it was done over 20 years ago there is no documentation)
Dealing with estate agents, solicitors, vendors and buyers (because these things invariably come to light when you're trying to sell)
Budgetting for the vast amounts of wine and Pringles it takes to get through the hard times

Good luck! It sounds like you're vendor is pretty switched on and doing everything she can to help get things sorted.

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