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Selling a Victorian converted flat with no building control sign off

(9 Posts)
Linwin Sun 29-Nov-15 00:03:18

Need some advice please. We are trying to sell our Victorian converted flat in London, however just as we were about to exchange the buyers solicitors uncovered that the flat had never been signed off by building control, we were completely unaware as our solicitor never flagged anything to is when we bought it. The prospective buyers have refused to accept indemnity insurance, in any event their solicitor has already informed the local council of the issue so it wouldnt be valid anyway.
After conversation with the local council they say they can't come out and provide retrospective building regs sign off as there are other flats affected in the building and the conversion was done in 1990. Basically they are not interested and are refusing to do anything to help.
We're at a bit of a loss what to do to ensure the next sale doesn't fall through. Has anyone got any useful advice? Surely many converted flats in old houses have similar issues?

LaFlottes Sun 29-Nov-15 13:11:47

Hi Linwin,

I think you have been really unlucky in this instance and also think that your buyers were perhaps badly advised by an over cautious solicitor. This would not have been an issue for me as a buyer.

I would suggest posting your question on money saving expert, in forum for buying and selling houses. There are some great people on there with more expert opinions than mine.

However from what I know here are a few comments:

Building control can only enforce non compliance within 1 year. So if the conversion was in 1990 they wouldn't be enforcing any action.

Could you ask the for a letter stating that they have no interest in taking any action? This might calm future buyers.

I think if buyer was concerned about this, it would not be because of any possible action being taken, it would perhaps be concern about the standard of the work and whether everything was safe and done well. Building control wouldn't be able to tell you this and the regulations will have changed from 1990 anyway.

So if I had a concerned buyer, I would suggest that they got a RICS structural engineer to look over the property and then confirm it's all okay. So I guess this is something you could do in advance, to pre-empt any issues, and you could give the report to your solicitor to pass to theirs if need be but I honestly would wait, and suggest that this is what a new buyer did as you may be wasting your money getting someone in advance.

The buyer may ask you to cover the cost, or not, or to share it, but that's something you could decide when the time comes.

As a final idea, as it's a conversion, did any of your neighbours move in after you? Could you ask them if they had any issues similar to this and how they overcame them? Might be worth a conversation.

I hope this helps. We are going through a house sale and it's all just a horrible process. I hope you find a new, less nervous buyer very soon.

gingeroots Sun 29-Nov-15 16:00:28

Laflottes that's such a helpful reply .We're not selling but I worry about this issue when we do .

Ours is a different situation ,but similar I think .We have a flat with bedroom in the attic and the access to it is odd - a very high step .When we were buying our solicitor was concerned about the conversion not meeting building regs when done . And in fact the price was dropped .

But thanks for your comments ,good suggestions .

Linwin Sun 29-Nov-15 16:21:04

Thanks so much for your comments. It's so frustrating and stressful this selling lark.

On digging a bit further it transpires that the house could possibly have been converted into flats pre 1985.

Am I right in thinking that if this turns out to be the case then the local council would not ever be able to enforce building regs? We had already asked them to provide a letter of comfort to the buyer, which they flatly refused to do.

As for structural survey, we had a detailed electrical survey done at our own cost and were prepared to contribute to the works suggested by the electrician.

Hopefully all is not lost!

LaFlottes Mon 30-Nov-15 10:49:09

I'm glad my comments have been helpful Ginger - we have a few niggles with our house that we are expecting to come up so it's good to have a plan of action isn't it!

Linwin - I think the Building Act came into force in Nov 1985, so if it's pre 1985 then I would assume if this comes up again that's all you will need to say, as you can't have a completion certificate for regulations that didn't exist!!

Can the planning office provide details of when the conversion was done?

I can't believe they wouldn't do a letter for you - that's so unhelpful isn't it.

I'm sure all is not lost!! I'm surprised you lost a buyer over this to be honest.

Good luck with the next one. Are you staying on the market over Christmas?

Linwin Mon 30-Nov-15 22:27:55

Thanks Laflottes, I really appreciate the advice

Yes, we've gone back on the market. The agent reckons they have quite a few people looking at the moment but I will be surprised if we get another offer before Christmas.

I did wonder if the buyers were expecting us to drop the price or something. Oh well, their loss.sad

This was our second offer as well, the first one fell through within weeks!

How far along are you in your sale?

LaFlottes Mon 30-Nov-15 22:49:11

We are having a disaster!! We had an offer 6 weeks ago, house only on the market for 3 days.

They are buy to let investors and they had their mortgage approved subject to survey. Survey was carried out almost two weeks ago and today we found out that the house was valued at what they are paying, which was good news, but they had put a silly amount as the expected rental income. The surveyor has (rightly in my opinion) said it would make less per month so this reduces (by £24k)the amount they can borrow.

They have appealed. I think they would get it increased a bit, but not to what they first said.

So we have to wait to hear the outcome. Apparently they should know by Wednesday, but we will put it back on the market if we don't hear by Thursday.

It's a right pain as we want a new build and will have to find a new buyer asap to continue with the purchase.

I think you are right to stay on the market - we will go back on if need be. There are people looking and less competition at the moment so you never know.

I'm trying to stay positive but really feel pretty rubbish about it all.

Have you found somewhere you want to buy?

Linwin Mon 30-Nov-15 23:00:16

Oh dear Laflottes, that sounds like a right pain. Hang on in there.

The flat we are selling was the first property we bought together, we became accidental landlords after we had our DD and needed to move. We couldn't sell it then either smile so had to go down the rental route.

When we switched it to a BTL mortgage our lender valued it at much, much less than market value of similar properties, so we had a higher LTV and a much higher interest rate, we should have appealed their valuation to be honest.

Fingers crossed you hear good news.

LaFlottes Mon 30-Nov-15 23:19:22

Thanks Linwin - I'm trying to be patient and upbeat, but it's hard. I was hoping for good news today but this house selling lark always seems to become a drama doesn't it!

We will keep our fingers crossed, we can negotiate a little if need be, but obviously would rather not!!

What a shame the valuation meant you had a high interest rate. To be honest I would never really have thought to appeal a valuation either, I think we are too accepting sometimes.

Our Estate Agent spoke to the buyers mortgage advisor at Natwest and he seemed to think there was some hope for our buyers, but who knows. I go from thinking "oh well we'll start again" to wanting to shout and have a big tantrum!!

Good luck and hope you get some new buyers very soon.

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