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What if no Building Regs for Attic Conversion?
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# 1
WildFennel
Old 12-04-2011, 10:52 AM
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Default What if no Building Regs for Attic Conversion?

We are FTBs buying a 4 bed house for 330K, with the 4th bed in the loft (it was advertised as a 4-bed). It has a rear extension and an outbuilding.

Local Authority searches have only showed that planning for the loft was agreed in 1988 by previous owners, and not the vendors, and so we are preparing for the fact that they may not have any paperwork, building regs, completion certificate etc to show that the work complies or is structurally sound. The reason we are a bit sceptical is because we have been informed that there is no paperwork for the rear kitchen or the outbuilding which the vendors built in the last 10yrs, and so our solicitor says that the vendors are willing to provide indemnity cover. We are not so worried about the rear extension or the outbuilding and understand that the indemnity should cover any enforcement from the council regarding these, but are conscious that is a little shady that the vendors didnt get this properly approved (when they said they had).

Anyhow our main concern is with the loft conversion - with building regs changing so much over the years, we understand that if there are no papers for the 4th bedroom, to get the planning people in may raise a whole load of issues we (or the vendors) probably dont want to get tangled up in.

So to get to my question - will it be sufficient to get a structural engineer in to confirm that the room is habitable, and if so, will this then be sufficient for prospective buyers should we decide to sell in 5/10 years time?

If it is not structurally sound, then we have accepted that we will be buying a 3-bed house with a posh attic, but are not willing to pay 4-bed prices and accept that if vendors are not willing to reduce the price we will have to walk away from it. But if they are willing to re-negotiate I understand that it may cost 25 - 30K to put this attic right so would it be right to ask for a 25-30K reduction in the price of the house?

Sorry for the huge rant, im just trying to get it right in my head and be prepared for whatever comes next. Our solictor is already suggesting we come in with passports/NI numbers etc and agree draft contract etc etc, but i'm reluctant to even speak with them until I have in writing what paperwork the vendors have/have not.

Hope you can advise
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# 2
tleefox
Old 12-04-2011, 11:06 AM
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I have limited knowledge of the subject, but my understanding was that if the "4th" bedroom was contained either within an attic conversion or extension which did / does not have Building Regs approval, it could not be marketed as being a 4 bed property?

My advice would be to give the local council Building Control a phone call and ask for their advice on the matter - they are usually very helpful and willing to assist.

Hope this helps.
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# 3
martindow
Old 12-04-2011, 11:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tleefox View Post

My advice would be to give the local council Building Control a phone call and ask for their advice on the matter - they are usually very helpful and willing to assist.
I would wait for other posters to come along before doing this. I don't think you can get indemnity insurance if you have contacted them, so you this could remove an option.

There are two issues here that you need to address - the planning people taking some action and whether the work in the loft has been done correctly.
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# 4
WildFennel
Old 12-04-2011, 11:57 AM
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Default Building Regs for Attic conversion

Thanks tleefox, So are you saying that if the building is structurally safe, but that there are no building regs, then it should not be sold as a 4-bed?
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# 5
casper_g
Old 12-04-2011, 12:50 PM
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You can't definitively say that no building regs approval implies a room can't be counted as a bedroom. If I'm buying a house built before the building regs were introduced, no part of it will have building regs approval. If the loft conversion was done in the late 1980s, the building regs were in force (I think they were introduced in 1984) but my uninformed inexpert gut feeling would be that the chance of enforcement action is nil.

The other question is whether it's structurally sound, and whether it is safe in other respects. As it's been up for more than 20 years it's unlikely to be structurally deficient to any great extent (though that's not to say there isn't a small chance it'll all fall down tomorrow). The other issue is whether it is safe in some circumstance that hasn't yet arisen e.g. how will it perform in a fire?

One thing's for sure, I wouldn't buy it without asking a reputable surveyor to give it a thorough going over!
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# 6
DannyboyMidlands
Old 12-04-2011, 1:19 PM
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The Building Regs are about much more than structural stability and a structural engineer will not be able to tell you if a room is habitable. What about means of escape in case of fire? spread of fire? access for emergency services? accoustics? insulation? quality of glazing? stairs? drainage?

If there are no Building Regs then I would not consider this a 4 bed house. I would not want my loved ones sleeping up there. So many people throw up cheap, dodgy extensions. Don't touch them with a barge pole - especially for 330k!
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# 7
Richard Webster
Old 12-04-2011, 1:32 PM
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I think you need to get legal advice about the whole matter and trying to check it out on your own may not be the best way to go.

If they won't reduce their price then you could contact the local building control to ask about it and your solicitors can then tell the sellers that is what you have done. Nobody with a mortgage could touch it then without them sorting it out properly!
RICHARD WEBSTER

As a conveyancing solicitor I believe the information given in the post to be useful assuming any properties concerned are in England/Wales but I accept no liability except to fee-paying clients.
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# 8
bosseyed
Old 12-04-2011, 1:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DannyboyMidlands View Post
The Building Regs are about much more than structural stability and a structural engineer will not be able to tell you if a room is habitable. What about means of escape in case of fire? spread of fire? access for emergency services? accoustics? insulation? quality of glazing? stairs? drainage?

If there are no Building Regs then I would not consider this a 4 bed house. I would not want my loved ones sleeping up there. So many people throw up cheap, dodgy extensions. Don't touch them with a barge pole - especially for 330k!
I'd have to agree with this - the building regs on lofts cover so much more than just structural concerns (although they are an important part!) My concerns would be that if the loft conversion was installed after the regs came into force then there ought to be some paperwork confirming compliance - and if there isn't, why not? The temptation would be to assume it was done on the cheap and is best case, shoddy, worst case dangerous.

And I was under the impression that unless building regs compliance for new loft rooms (ie an addition to the original house) could be proved, then it doesn't count as a bedroom, ie making this a 3 bed rather than a 4 bed house?
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# 9
Owain Moneysaver
Old 12-04-2011, 10:07 PM
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It's not just the loft that could be dangerous.

The ground floor rooms won't be very safe if the roof collapses or the walls bow out. Which just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it never will.

To be honest, unless you really want this house and are willing to spend money on a full structural engineer's survey and indemnity insurance and get it at a really good price, I'd be walking away. It's not like it's a seller's market at the moment.
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# 10
WildFennel
Old 14-04-2011, 10:30 AM
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Default Building Regs for Attic conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Webster View Post
If they won't reduce their price then you could contact the local building control to ask about it and your solicitors can then tell the sellers that is what you have done. Nobody with a mortgage could touch it then without them sorting it out properly!
Isn't that a bit immoral though? Can't I just suggest to them that they approach Building Control to get it sorted?
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# 11
ElleStar
Old 14-04-2011, 11:35 AM
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Exactly the same thing happened to me. My victorian flat was marketed as a 2 bed but during the buying process it transpired that the loft room didn't meet with building regulations and from then on was referred to as a 1 bed flat. As I loved the flat, I bought it anyway. I used the 'loft room' as a spare room for 5 years with no problems and then saved up enough money to get the builders in to put the loft right (and add a mansard extention and ensuite).

The only word of caution... I naively thought that having a basic loft conversion already there would save me money but it probably added to the cost. During my initial research and getting quotes from various builders, i had mixed advice on whether the stairs would need to be repositioned or not. The stairs were too steep and not enough head height in one place so had to be repositioned which then involved moving a wall downstairs.

It's all worth it as I now have an amazing bedroom and shower room and I have certificates to prove it's all building regulations compliant so it's officically a 2 bedroom flat!
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# 12
WildFennel
Old 14-04-2011, 11:59 AM
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Default Building Regs for Attic conversion

Thanks ElleStar
So did you get building control in before, during or after the work was done, and did they get you to change/pull out things that they felt were not up to their standard?
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# 13
ElleStar
Old 14-04-2011, 12:48 PM
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My builder dealt directly with building control and he used a private company, rather than the council as he said you have to wait around for ages for council guy. My flat is in SW London and my builder just does loft conversions in the area (so all victorian properties) and uses the same building regs guy for all his jobs. My builder also seemed pretty clued up on the building regs side of things.

The biggest issue was the position of the stairs so the building control guy came in to discuss what would be acceptable (although this was after the plans had been drawn). I think he must have come a couple of times because I think he had to see the correct insulation had been used and the flooring joists were right. He then came again at the end of the job to sign it all off.

The only thing I had to change were all the doors of habitable rooms had to be replaced with fire doors and smoke alarms had to linked. The only thing that I wasn't expecting was that I lost quite a bit of head height when the steel joists were put in. I had wrongly assumed that it was just a case of replacing the wooden ones when in fact they were on top. I've still got a decent head height but maybe 20cm less than I had before.

I was also having a new roof and my builder said my 3 chimneys were unstable and needed rebuilding (this wasn't a surprise because it came up in the survey when I bought the flat). However he said building regs wouldn't be signed off unless I got them done. Of course it made sense to have the work done as I had builders there and scaffolding up but I couldn't quite get my head around it needing to be signed off (two of the chimneys were on a part of the roof that wasn't part of the loft conversion). If I had just had a new roof, I would have had no need for buidling control so it wouldn't have been an issue.

If I were to do it again, I would get someone in before starting work so I knew exactly what needed doing and be absolutely clear as to what the knock on effect of doing work to one part of a property would have on other (unconnected) parts which dont meet building regs.
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# 14
liubeliu
Old 14-04-2011, 1:12 PM
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For a loft extension building regs also looked at fire escape
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# 15
WildFennel
Old 18-04-2011, 3:32 PM
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Default No building Regs and seller won't pay to get them done

thanks everyone for your comments.

As predicted, our solicitor has just today confirmed that there is no completion certificate for the loft conversion (it took over a week to find out and a chasing email)

When I queried a number of your points with our solicitor, namely the reasons behind the building regs, fire escape etc....they said that because the house is over 100yrs old, alterations were carried out to these kind of houses in the E17 London area without Local Authority approvals, including extensions and loft conversions.

He said that if I arrange for a
detailed inspection by Building Control, which might involve excavation works i.e. disrupting the decorative finishing to find out what lays beneath, the seller will not be willing to meet the cost of this, and if we do we will have to make good any damage caused.

Is this normal proceedure in buying a house or should we just walk away?
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# 16
m_13
Old 18-04-2011, 4:05 PM
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We had to have this done when we were buying a terrace house with the lounge and dining room knocked through to be open plan. There was no paperwork or documentation for the beam that was allegedly holding up upstairs and we had to pay for a structural engineer to visit and hack a bit of the boxing in off and peer inside with a torch. He had already done calculations to determine what size the beam should be and was checking to see it was the same or larger. He also took some plaster off at either end to see that the beam was supported at either end correctly. The decor was bright yellow woodchip so no real loss!

All was well for us and the beam was correct and building control accepted the report and issue a retrospective certificate which was all OK when we sold.

In your case would you want to use a bedroom that could be unsafe? Have this hassle when you sell? If it's come up for you then the same thorny issue will arise with any other buyer so the vendors need to get it sorted out.
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# 17
jaffs
Old 18-04-2011, 8:24 PM
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I am having similar issues, the house i am supposed to be buying has a loft conversion which we have been informed by my solicitor hasn't got any paperwork, so no building regs.

I have spoken to the surveyor who has done the homebuyers report and he says the only way to find out if it is done properly would be to take chunks out of walls, floors etc, which we are unlikely to be able to do...so its a choice of risk it or walk away.
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