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Buying Property with Loft Conversion and No Building Regs(29 Posts)
Am getting very concerned that the owners of a property we have had an offer accepted on didn't get the loft conversion (two rooms and a shower room) signed off for building regs. We are cash buyers so no need for a mortgage. The property was marketed as a 4 bedroom property with two additional loft rooms (although one was very clearly set up as an additional bedroom), and we are happy with the price agreed on. We have not yet had a survey done on the property, but the current structure of the work isn't really our main concern, our concerns are:
- Although we can ask the vendors to obtain Indemnity Insurance, this will only cover us for any costs relating to enforcement by the council after realising that Building Regs weren't signed off and can only be obtained if the Council are not already aware that Building Regs haven't been signed off. When we sell the property we will probably have to provide the same indemnity insurance to our buyers in order for them to get a mortgage and there is always a small risk that the council are made aware of the problem and therefore indemnity insurance is not possible and potential buyers have a mortgage refused.
- Will we have issues with Building Insurance, e.g. if anything happened to the structure that caused damage either to the loft conversion or elsewhere in the property could they refuse the claim, potentially leaving us with huge repair bills
- We are obviously concerned about this, and therefore any potential buyers we may have in years to come will also have the same issues, possibly devaluing the property or making it difficult to sell
- We don't think the buyer is being entirely truthful as to why Building Regs weren't signed off. The work was done in 2007, just as Building Regs changed, so we do think that to have the work done retrospectively to comply with Building Regs now would cost a fortune and so that wouldn't be an option either for the vendors to put in place now or for us in the future
- Surely the new shower room would have needed to be signed off by Building Regs
What is everyone’s thoughts on this, are we being over cautious or should we walk away now before spending any more money on the purchase.
It's not the shower room which will cause the issue. We had a loft conversion about 8 years ago and the issues are things like access - there has to be a staircase of a certain width, head height at the top has to be 2m. If the loft conversion changed the house from a 2 floor home to 3 floors, there are additional rules about fire doors. It has to be properly insulated.
Now your seller might have done all this and it might all conform. If it doesn't, it could be something less disruptive like changing doors only. But if the staircase doesn't conform, or the insulation isn't thick enough, it's going to be really expensive and disruptive to put right (if it can be brought up to standard at all).
It might be fine but it might be a can of worms. Who knows? Personally, I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole, or if you have your heart set on it, would be looking for the sellers to pay for a proper survey to detail exactly what needs done, and what it will cost.
I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole unless you are in a situation where you don't think it will ever need to be sold (i.e. you intend to live there until you die and would expect that it would then be inherited by your offspring and would stay in the family). You are quite right that it could be impossible to sell to anyone who needs a mortgage and either you or a future owner could be forced to revert it to a state where it complies with building regs (if the stairways and head clearances simply cannot be made to comply it then the whole loft would need to be re-converted back to storage use only and the shower room removed) This makes its real value significantly less than you will be paying. It's your money and you can choose to spend it, and if you are happy living there and taking the risk then go for it, but it could end up putting you into penury.
I agree with the above, we bought our place with an existing loft conversion no building regs and have just had it redone to proper safety standards. The whole thing had to be rebuilt, insulation, roof etc so basically the cost of doing it all again (actually probably more because you have the deconstruction!). I would get clear costs for correcting what is needed and factor that into your offer.
As I understand it, you just can’t sell it as an extra bedroom - so a three bed with a loft conversion doesn’t become a four bed but stays a three bed with loft room. I believe it is to do with access / fire safety as per PP said.
I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole either. Wouldn't your solicitor be able to advise. They certainly needed planning permission to install a shower room. Why take on this headache.
I think if it's marketed and priced as a 4 bed plus two loft rooms, it's fine. I just wouldn't be using those rooms as bedrooms/habitable rooms - just a study or storage.
Will the conversion comply with Building Regs or not? If not walk away.
Will the conversion comply with Building Regs or not? If not walk away.
She doesn't know - that's the whole point.
She doesn't know = it doesn't comply I'd say. Be very wary.
Depends if the current price reflects the issue and whether the fire regulations have been adhered to, because every door in the house would have to be a swift closing for door...
If it’s priced like a regular house - with a floored and lined loft ‘for storage’ - type thing I’d consider it if it was a cheaper way of getting the extra rooms I needed for my family. Knowing that it could have been badly installed I’d get it inspected by an expert prior to purchase. I had neighbours that did this. It revealed dodgy wiring and timbers too thin to support the weight of the roof.
However if survey showed that the house hasn’t been damaged like that and it’s just a case of staircase 2inches too narrow or something small and seemingly just red tape id still consider.
However if it’s priced like it was all building regged I’d walk away.
Perhaps it’s something as small as not having the extra X cms of head height for the stairs/entry so they decided not to get it through building regs.
Ask them to pay for the full survey and see which, if any, parts aren’t compliant then you can decide if it’s worth it and whether or not to worry about it.
But @VanillaSpiceCandle that's not something small. It's a major issue which means that unless you can magic up another 5cm or raise the roof, it will NEVER be signed off by building control = massive headache when you come to sell.
It doesn't mean the conversion is dangerous. But in legal terms, nightmare.
@SockYarn yes I understand but if you’re not planning on selling then it doesn’t matter as much. Not adhering to building regs doesn’t automatically render something a death trap. For something priced well and priced as loft rooms rather than bedrooms I’d consider buying if the survey found it to be structurally sound, good workmanship etc.
We don't think the buyer is being entirely truthful as to why Building Regs weren't signed off
I assume you mean seller rather than buyer?
It is worth establishing whether there were any inspections that took place whilst the work was being carried out, and it just never had the final sign-off.
If they had no inspections whatsoever that is rather worrying. If they're just missing the final sign-off that can be pretty easy to sort.
They certainly needed planning permission to install a shower room
No, you certainly don't.
Ask them to pay for the full survey and see which, if any, parts aren’t compliant then you can decide if it’s worth it and whether or not to worry about it
In order to establish whether the conversion has been done properly, and whether it complies with the appropriate building regs, an awful lot of the actual fabric of the building needs to be exposed, as such a standard survey is unlikely to reveal a great deal.
My first concern would be that the work may have compromised the roof structure, and that could be dangerous and expensive to rectify.
I would want a structural engineer to examine it and the strength of the floor at the sellers cost, or try and establish the cost to redo it with building regs and knock that off the price or find somewhere else.
I’ve always walked away from properties that do not have buildings regs passed for work. Just why go to the bother of altering a property and not do it properly? It’s a headache and off putting and solicitors always bring it up. It could be fine ... or it could not. Too big a gamble for me. It always strikes me that if it’s all been done correctly one would want it correctly signed off and approved.
Your life or one of your family’s life can’t have a money value put on it and in the case of a house fire it could cost someone their lives.
No amount of indemnity insurance will bring back a loved one.
Find out how much it would cost to bring the work up to standard.
Also find out how much a standard house of this type without the attic rooms are selling for.
Adjust your offer accordingly and then consider if you are happy/able to use the loft rooms as a study /office or playroom and not to sleep in or if you want to go through the hassle of having the required work done yourself to bring it up to building regs standards.
If you need the number of bedroom immediately I would walk away.
You won’t be able to expose the joists or steels. These are pretty fundamental in making sure it’s structurally sound and usually building regs see the loft at various stages for this very reason. The calculations etc are approved... Don’t touch unless priced as if it isn’t there. Building regs get tighter, mortgage based risk aversion increases. It will be a bigger problem in 10 years.
Absolutely agree with Tiddly above. The question I would ask myself is why did they not get it properly signed off? You may not require a mortgage but you can bet that the next person will need a mortgage. Indemnity insurance just isn't worth the paper it's written on either.
I think you need to discuss this further with your solicitor. I would personally not want to buy this property without the current owners getting a full structural survey and making good any damage caused by the surveyor. Only if they raised no real concerns that would prevent building control signoff would I proceed. I would also be looking for them to get the retrospective signoff - a certificate of regularisation. As the surveyor would be exposing joists etc anyway, it might make sense to do this concurrently.
However, it is incredibly unlikely that the council will take enforcement action - almost vanishingly unlikely. There is no point getting indemnity insurance because of this, it's throwing money away. Forget about that part.
Thanks everyone for your replies. Our gut feeling is to walk away. The house is priced higher than a similar house around the corner which hadn't had the loft conversion, so I do think we are paying for what is essentially very posh storage in the loft. The Indemnity Insurance issue doesn't have any relevance to us as we don't need a mortgage but I do know that some lenders insist on one before agreeing to release funds, even though it doesn't seem to be worth the paper it's printed on. It may just be a case of replacing all the doors leading directly onto the stairway with fire doors, which could be easily done and could be a negotiation in the final price paid. The problem is, we just don't know if that would be enough to cover current regs and without paying for an expensive and disruptive survey, there is no other way of getting the required sign off.