Buying a house without building regulations completion certificate
natkasz · 06/08/2022 17:36
Hi. would like some advice/personal experiences on the below please.
We're in the process of buying a house. Our buyers are FTBs and have been patiently waiting since March. We found our dream house in March too but it was sold within hours. It came back on the market a few weeks later, we made an offer and it was accepted. The vendor has been in touch regularly and even allowed us to view again to take some measurements.
We arranged a full structural survey but it seems now that it is very basic. The
surveyor phoned me after the inspection to say everything had been done by the book. The house has a wraparound extension (two story to the side with integral garage and one story in the back).
Fast forward 4 months and the searches revealed that whilst planning permission was granted, the vendor never asked for a building regs certificate. We have asked him to apply a regularisation certificate. The extension was built in 2004 and the house was marketed
as a 4-bed. We haven't heard since.
Our initial thought process was to pull out if no agreement was made in relation to regularisation due to the size of the extension (including the garage) but having checked the recent mortgage rates, if we were to pull out we would definitely lose our current rate and the new one (as of today) would be 1.58% higher 😳 The mortgage offer is valid until November.
If we stay in our current house, we will have to remortgage and would be on a crazy rate too notwithstanding that we have more than 60% equity in the current property.
If we argue a reduction in price, the lender will have to issue a new offer which most likely will be based on the current rates and would still pay more per month than what our current mortgage offer is.
We were originally adamant that we would pull out but now we're thinking it's probably not the best idea. Our Solicitor has advised against accepting Indemnity insurance given the age of the extension and the fact that any breach of regs is no longer enforceable.
I've heard stories about building insurance being invalidated if they find out that the build was never deemed compliant with the regs. What I'm more concerned about though is that we won't be able to make any alterations to the existing extension (we would like to extend it further by 2m) as the original work was never signed off and we would have to apply for regularisation ourselves before we apply for planning permission.
I would appreciate your thoughts.
LondonNQT · 06/08/2022 18:52
Push the vendor a bit more? If they missed out on some key visits during the build then you’re a bit stick but hopefully it might just be an issue of the certificates being lost (and this can be reissued).
Our party wall neighbour bought in a rush (baby was due imminently) and we suspect their property had no buildings regs certificate, we presume they bought insurance. The reason we think this is that during our renovation our builders discovered that their attic conversion was not compliant and that the last metre of their kitchen extension has no foundation…
It will cost you for sure to lose that mortgage rate, however, do you have an infinite pot of money to spend rectifying issues like this and worse?
natkasz · 06/08/2022 20:40
Yes we have pushed for it but his conveyancer is really slow. I suspect he'll say indemnity insurance (which is pointless) or no deal.
The surveyor was happy with the house as a whole (it was built in the 1930s)and said it is in a very good condition. I guess a building inspector would make a similar assessment unless he started taking plaster down or digging out holes next to the foundations? The vendor definitely got planning permission as I've seen the approved docs. It doesn't seem though that he had arranged any inspections during the build.
We don’t want to be forking out thousands to repair any issues but then I feel like we've got no other choice and that we should bite the bullet since the extension is nearly 20 years old.
We wanted to start trying for a baby (I'm 37) and have deliberately pushed it back until we complete. The rate change means that we would have to pay £230 per month extra on top of our original mortgage offer (it’s unlikely that we would get a house this size for what we originally agreed) which given the costs of living wouldn’t be ideal. I seriously feel like we're in catch 22 situation particularly when our remortgage rate for the current house would be £200 less than what we were quoted in April for a house twice as big as hours and in a better area.
mrsed1987 · 06/08/2022 21:51
We didn't realise until we sold in Feb that we didn't have our extention signed off in 2019 (It finished 3 days after I'd had a baby so I had other things on my mind!) Planning department just asked us to send pictures of the waste pipe and we had a certificate within 2 weeks.
We had it signed off throughout the build though so I guess that would be an issue for your vendors if that didn't happen.
SafelySoftly · 06/08/2022 23:05
i had a similar issue and pulled out.
it’s all well and good getting bothered about £230 per month but if you are in a position in a Buyer’s market in the future that you are unable to sell your house because of no
Building Regs you are going to be a bit stuck. I’d want a substantial reduction. The point is that if they’ve done a rubbish building job it may be impossible to regularise.
BoyMumma13 · 07/08/2022 07:31
It's rubbish when you find out work wasn't done with the right certificates. Even if they wanted to pursue it, the vendor would be unlikely to get a regularisation certificate as even it did meet standards in 2004, it is unlikely to meet modern standards as building regs are constantly changing.
-Did the vendor do the work and if so do they have any plans for the work (so you could see what was done/ depth of foundations)? You could ask via the agents in the first instance if the sols are slow.
- Highlight to your surveyor that buildings regs wasn't obtained (although planning was) and whether they have any concerns about the condition of the property in view of this. Ask if they think it affects the value of the property.
- Double check with your lender if you hypothetically negotiated a price reduction (don't say why), would that mean they switch you to a new product or whether a new mortgage offer would be issued with your current product. Quite often it's based on your loan to value so if you're still within the threshold, you might be able to keep the product you're on.
-Depending on how helpful your local Council is, you could try speaking to the building control and ask what their policy is if you applied to do work to existing work that didn't have building regs in 2004 (i.e would you need to bring the old work up to code). Do NOT disclose the property address, just speak hypothetically or just say the general area the property is in.
-You would be wise to read the small print of any buildings insurance and whether the work in 2004 would invalidate it. The safest (but also will increase premiums) way to to proceed would be to speak to a buildings insurance company and get a bespoke quote. Please bear in mind that a legal indemnity policy does not provide cover for inadequate buildings insurance.
Hope this helps!
NewHouseNewMe · 07/08/2022 08:53
This really depends on the council. My own is a stickler for detail like glass in internal doors, type of bannisters and all kinds of other seemingly minor points. On the big stuff (RSJ, plumbing), they’re massively involved. Others are much less hands on.
Can you talk to an independent building control person who works with the same council to have them assess the success in the application to regularise? It’s a few hundred pounds but would be money well spent.
LondonNQT · 07/08/2022 08:58
It’s a gamble for sure @natkasz and only you can know what your tolerance is.
At the very least negotiate on what you’ve offered and stash that away in a rainy day fund. That way when you come to refit that bathroom or kitchen and the costs balloon as they’ve discovered something unexpected, especially when you (hopefully) have a little one, it might soften the blow somewhat.
Given what we’ve seen with our neighbours and having gone through all the building regs visits etc with our property I’d be very reluctant to buy anything without the certificates. The actual cost of buildings regs is negligible in the overall scheme of things and independent companies can be used, so there are no delays due to waiting for dates from the council, so it would make me seriously question what other corners they’ve cut. At best these are fixable, at worse they pose a very real risk to life.
NewHouseNewMe · 07/08/2022 10:21
I agree @LondonNQT
We’ve had about 10 visits from ours to see various stages as they unfold. I don’t know how easy it would be to do retrospectively.
Shitehound · 07/08/2022 22:31
I would ask your vendor to call the Building Control dept at the Council. They can find out why the completion certificate wasn't issued. It could be something very simple, like the gas certificate got sent to the wrong email address or the electrical certificate never got sent. Once that's sorted you could have the completion cert within a day or two.
If the vendor seems friendly, knock on their door and swap numbers, it does seem to help the conveyancing process if you can communicate as the solicitors can be slow sometimes. Good luck
BungleandGeorge · 07/08/2022 22:42
It sounds like the extension is a significant percentage of the house so the potential for loosing money if everything isn’t ok would be significant. If it was a small extension I’d go ahead but not sure in your case
FurierTransform · 07/08/2022 22:56
It's been standing for near 20 years... Presumably there's no actual issues with it/the build; it's purely the building regs certificate?
Personally I'd get it surveyed to make sure the construction was reasonable and not a bodge, & wouldn't care. It won't stop you extending on it.
Woodlandarchitecty · 07/08/2022 23:00
Call your nearest Stroma office. Good luck x
Orangesare · 07/08/2022 23:08
there are council building inspectors and private ones. The private ones are more lax.
I have renovated numerous properties and gone through building control and just bought a house which is allegedly done with a completion cert. It really isn’t (I did know that before I bought it) and no successful claim for negligence has been brought against a building inspector so it seems they are really worth the paper they are written on.
In your situation I would have the roof surveyed to ensure all the timbers were the correct size etc and dig a few inspection holes to check the foundations go to the correct depth. That is what the building inspector will ask you to do before allowing any further extensions or major changes. If the roof and foundations are good it will stand up and anything else such as windows not big enough for escape windows can be sorted later.
Id get the vendor to buy the useless indemnity though as that can be passed on when you sell.
Lovetogarden2022 · 07/08/2022 23:50
Imho I wouldn't touch it with a barge pole. Selling it in the future will be v tough without those certificates. Also, as others have pointed out, if the work wasn't done right the first time, it can firstly be dangerous but also extremely costly to repair. My mum's friends moved into a house during lockdown - they too were in a hurry - and didn't bother to check building certificates etc. nearly 2 years on, they have spent THOUSANDS trying to rectify problems. And that too was an extension from about 15 years ago
Lovetogarden2022 · 07/08/2022 23:52
To add - it's a bad situation and things like this get me so wound up. I think it should be law that to put your house on the market, you have to be able to provide all the correct paperwork etc first! Same with probate - you shouldn't be able to sell a house until it's officially yours to sell.
redandponk · 08/08/2022 00:07
I am a conveyancing solicitor so I'm hoping I can help put your mind at rest.
It is actually surprisingly common for extensions/building works to not have building regulations certificates. However, the key thing is when the extension was built. After 10 years the local authority will not take any enforcement action even if no building regulation certificates have been issued.
What I would always suggest is legally we would ask the seller to pay for indemnity insurance just incase enforcement was ever pursued. Also (and arguably more importantly) have the surveyor do a more in-depth survey to assess the structural integrity and negotiate via the agent for a reduction in price.
natkasz · 08/08/2022 09:46
I am unsure how to approach the surveyor to be honest. We ordered a full structural survey but there’s nothing in the report about the structure bar the fact that the extension was built in 2004 and is of sound construction (and some reference to their being a cavity wall and concrete floor). It was prepared in April and I reckon he’ll say he doesn’t even remember the property anymore. I am now thinking he did a rubbish job particularly when he didn’t even inspect the roof.
I can see that there is an entry regarding building regulations in the public register but bizarrely it refers to different extension specifications. I’m not sure if it is a mistake on the LA’s part as the planning permission had been granted 6 months earlier and referred to a slightly different layout.
I have also checked with the Council and they will expect the build to be compliant with the regulations applicable at the time when it was completed. I’m secretly hoping that the extension was inspected when the works commenced (hence to entry in the BR register) so there would be no issue with trying to determine the depth of foundations etc.
I have a broker acting on my behalf and I am somewhat concerned that it I start asking hypothetical questions, it will backfire as he’s expected to pass on all information to the lender? I’m also wary of contacting the Council as I don’t want to tip them off in case the vendor doesn’t want to go down the regularisation route.
In terms of the certificate, we’re pretty confident it doesn’t exist. The vendor replied to our enquiries to say that the building regs certificate “was never progressed”. I assume that the extension was never signed off which is why it didn’t show in the searches. My solicitor thinks that it is unlikely that it was missed off when the searches were replied to by the LA.
I have got the vendor’s number and we have been in touch since he accepted our offer. He even invited us to over to introduce us to his neighbours! He has been messaging me throughout the process asking for updates. The EA are one of the online ones and they were never involved. He’s been very pleasant to deal with and he doesn’t strike me as someone would would deliberately try to conceal the mistakes made by his builder nearly 20 years ago.
I think will wait until tomorrow before I message him to say that we have asked his Solicitor for more information. I don’t want to be speaking with him about regularisation as clearly he needs his Solicitor’s advice on that point.
In terms of the price, 3-bed properties on the same road now go for £10k under what we have offered (asking price). A similar property albeit slightly wider and deeper (by 1m) and with loft conversion is currently advertised for £25k more than our offer. I therefore suspect that he wouldn’t agree to any reduction and if he was to put to back on the market as a 3-bed, he’d still get what he’s asked for plus the house is in a very desirable area with 3 outstanding primary and 2 grammar schools within walking distance. He’s not in a chain so I guess from his point of view, he can just sit and wait for the right buyer to come along.
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