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    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 9th May 18, 2:57 PM
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    phloaw
    Buying house having old extension with no permission (Scotland)
    • #1
    • 9th May 18, 2:57 PM
    Buying house having old extension with no permission (Scotland) 9th May 18 at 2:57 PM
    Hi, my offer to buy a house in Scotland was informally accepted, but while doing his job my solicitor found out that a ground-floor extension built around 2003 was never asked a planning permission neither a building warrant for.

    The original ad for the property didn't feature a floorplan; they never provided one on request, and never mentioned the problem until my solicitor found out.

    All I got is a "letter of comfort" from a third-party consultancy firm who took a visit recently to assess the issue.

    I am confident that the local authority is unlikely to take enforcement action; however, I am worried that the problem could hamper future resales (even though the property is in a sought-after area).
    My solicitor says that in respect of re-sale this is unlikely to cause any issues as the letter of comfort is placed with the Title Deeds for the next purchasers information.

    However, I wouldn't take his word for it; therefore, I'm looking for third-party opinions or feedback on how the problem could affect future re-sales.

    My solicitor also made clear that the seller is unwilling to pursue a retrospective planning permission or building warrant (if such things exist).

    Any possible piece of advice you can think of (e.g., on whether alternative arrangements like a price reduction request are advisable) is welcome.

    Thanks!
Page 1
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 9th May 18, 3:15 PM
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    davidmcn
    • #2
    • 9th May 18, 3:15 PM
    • #2
    • 9th May 18, 3:15 PM
    However, I wouldn't take his word for it
    Originally posted by phloaw
    Why not? It sounds reasonable advice to me.

    Not sure what the floorplan has to do with it - you have viewed the property, right?
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 9th May 18, 3:20 PM
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    phloaw
    • #3
    • 9th May 18, 3:20 PM
    • #3
    • 9th May 18, 3:20 PM
    Why not? It sounds reasonable advice to me.
    Originally posted by davidmcn
    Well, because my solicitor is involved in the sale, anyway.
    Opinion from a neutral party is more significant; you just provided that, so thank you!

    Not sure what the floorplan has to do with it - you have viewed the property, right?
    Originally posted by davidmcn
    Well, my suspicion is that they never provided a floorplan exactly because it doesn't feature the extension.
    But I've viewed the property yes.
    As a minor point, a floorplan will definitely be useful in a future resale, that's another reason making it relevant to the original topic (sorry for not being completely clear about this).
    • dunroving
    • By dunroving 9th May 18, 3:26 PM
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    dunroving
    • #4
    • 9th May 18, 3:26 PM
    • #4
    • 9th May 18, 3:26 PM
    Hi, my offer to buy a house in Scotland was informally accepted, but while doing his job my solicitor found out that a ground-floor extension built around 2003 was never asked a planning permission neither a building warrant for.

    The original ad for the property didn't feature a floorplan; they never provided one on request, and never mentioned the problem until my solicitor found out.

    All I got is a "letter of comfort" from a third-party consultancy firm who took a visit recently to assess the issue.

    I am confident that the local authority is unlikely to take enforcement action; however, I am worried that the problem could hamper future resales (even though the property is in a sought-after area).
    My solicitor says that in respect of re-sale this is unlikely to cause any issues as the letter of comfort is placed with the Title Deeds for the next purchasers information.

    However, I wouldn't take his word for it; therefore, I'm looking for third-party opinions or feedback on how the problem could affect future re-sales.

    My solicitor also made clear that the seller is unwilling to pursue a retrospective planning permission or building warrant (if such things exist).

    Any possible piece of advice you can think of (e.g., on whether alternative arrangements like a price reduction request are advisable) is welcome.

    Thanks!
    Originally posted by phloaw
    I believe a Letter of Comfort would come from the local authority.

    Who is the third party consultancy firm?

    And why are you confident that the local authority would not do anything?

    I also believe that as far as planning permission is concerned, you are OK because if it's 15 years old, it is way past the time frame that planning permission can be enforced.

    It is completely understandable that the seller is not willing to apply for retrospective building consents. This would require the extension to be brought up to current building regulations. If it's 15 years old, I dare say there are many ways in which it does not comply to modern building regulations.

    The lack of a floorplan is a non-issue.
    (Nearly) dunroving
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 9th May 18, 3:29 PM
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    davidmcn
    • #5
    • 9th May 18, 3:29 PM
    • #5
    • 9th May 18, 3:29 PM
    Well, because my solicitor is involved in the sale, anyway.
    Opinion from a neutral party is more significant; you just provided that, so thank you!
    Originally posted by phloaw
    The opinion of an anonymous weirdo on a web forum ought to be far less significant to you than that of the solicitor who you're paying money to in order to represent your interests.

    Well, my suspicion is that they never provided a floorplan exactly because it doesn't feature the extension.
    If you mean the estate agent's floorplan, they're generally created when they market the property, so they'd include any extensions etc. If they haven't done a floorplan it's probably just because they're lazy, not because they're conspiring to hide something from you.
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 9th May 18, 3:44 PM
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    phloaw
    • #6
    • 9th May 18, 3:44 PM
    • #6
    • 9th May 18, 3:44 PM
    I believe a Letter of Comfort would come from the local authority.

    Who is the third party consultancy firm?
    Originally posted by dunroving
    The letter comes from a structural engineer that is used regularly by my solicitor "in these sort of circumstances".
    And why are you confident that the local authority would not do anything?
    Because of what you say below about the time frame.
    Isn't that a good reason to be confident? I am confused now, since you confirm that I am OK wrt planning permission: so what sort of problems could rise with the local authority?
    I also believe that as far as planning permission is concerned, you are OK because if it's 15 years old, it is way past the time frame that planning permission can be enforced.
    It is completely understandable that the seller is not willing to apply for retrospective building consents. This would require the extension to be brought up to current building regulations. If it's 15 years old, I dare say there are many ways in which it does not comply to modern building regulations.

    The lack of a floorplan is a non-issue.
    Thanks, these remarks are useful.
    And thank you for taking the time to answer.
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 9th May 18, 3:52 PM
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    phloaw
    • #7
    • 9th May 18, 3:52 PM
    • #7
    • 9th May 18, 3:52 PM
    The opinion of an anonymous weirdo on a web forum ought to be far less significant to you than that of the solicitor who you're paying money to in order to represent your interests.
    Originally posted by davidmcn
    Fair point.
    But you never know: maybe the weirdo will point out some testable knowledge I wasn't aware of, or report some verifiable similar experience providing further confidence in my solicitor.
    Anyway, I always try to exercise exceeding caution when dealing with anonymous online opinions; but still, they can be useful.

    If you mean the estate agent's floorplan, they're generally created when they market the property, so they'd include any extensions etc. If they haven't done a floorplan it's probably just because they're lazy, not because they're conspiring to hide something from you.
    This is very interesting to learn, thank you again.
    Having no knowledge of how these things work, I had indeed fallen into a conspiracy theory mental mode.
    Strange, however, that they omitted to produce something this easy when we are talking about thousands pounds.
    • dunroving
    • By dunroving 9th May 18, 3:54 PM
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    dunroving
    • #8
    • 9th May 18, 3:54 PM
    • #8
    • 9th May 18, 3:54 PM
    The letter comes from a structural engineer that is used regularly by my solicitor "in these sort of circumstances".
    Because of what you say below about the time frame.
    Isn't that a good reason to be confident? I am confused now, since you confirm that I am OK wrt planning permission: so what sort of problems could rise with the local authority?
    Thanks, these remarks are useful.
    And thank you for taking the time to answer.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    You are mixing up planning permission and building permission/consent.

    Planning permission - do you have permission to build the proposed structure? Example: Permission not given for a 8-storey car park in your garden, because it will block the sunlight and because it is not a permitted use of the land.

    Building consent - does the structure or alteration meet required building standards and regulations? Example: Proposed use of asbestos for the roof of your new attached garage is not permitted for heath and safety reasons.

    My comment about the age of the structure relates to *planning permission*, not building consents.
    Last edited by dunroving; 09-05-2018 at 4:07 PM.
    (Nearly) dunroving
    • dunroving
    • By dunroving 9th May 18, 3:56 PM
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    dunroving
    • #9
    • 9th May 18, 3:56 PM
    • #9
    • 9th May 18, 3:56 PM
    Fair point.
    But you never know: maybe the weirdo will point out some testable knowledge I wasn't aware of, or report some verifiable similar experience providing further confidence in my solicitor.
    Anyway, I always try to exercise exceeding caution when dealing with anonymous online opinions; but still, they can be useful.

    This is very interesting to learn, thank you again.
    Having no knowledge of how these things work, I had indeed fallen into a conspiracy theory mental mode.
    Strange, however, that they omitted to produce something this easy when we are talking about thousands pounds.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    Surely when searching Rightmove, you saw houses that did not include a floorplan? There are many examples of estate agents being lazy in this way and although it is hard to believe, it happens often enough for it to not be cause for surprise.
    (Nearly) dunroving
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 9th May 18, 4:05 PM
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    phloaw
    You are mixing up planning permission and building permission/consent.

    Planning permission - do you have permission to build the proposed structure? Example: Permission not given for a 8-storey car park in your garden, because it will block the sunlight and because it is not a permitted use of the land.

    Building consent - does the structure or alteration meet required building standards and regulations? Example: Proposed use of asbestos for the roof of your shed is not permitted for heath and safety reasons.

    My comment about the age of the structure relates to *planning permission*, not building consents.
    Originally posted by dunroving
    I see. Again, I'm glad this thread is being very instructive to me.
    The mentioned "letter of comfort" explicitly says that the extension works appear to comply with relevant standards (wrt the time when they were performed), and concludes that therefore the authority is unlikely to take enforcement action.

    However, I understand that neither planning permission nor formal building consent were applied for when the extension was built.
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 9th May 18, 4:06 PM
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    phloaw
    Surely when searching Rightmove, you saw houses that did not include a floorplan? There are many examples of estate agents being lazy in this way and although it is hard to believe, it happens often enough for it to not be cause for surprise.
    Originally posted by dunroving
    Actually no, I've never seen a property without a floorplan.
    However, as clarified by you and others, the floorplan is a non-issue, so I'm no longer worried about that.
    • dunroving
    • By dunroving 9th May 18, 4:15 PM
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    dunroving
    I see. Again, I'm glad this thread is being very instructive to me.
    The mentioned "letter of comfort" explicitly says that the extension works appear to comply with relevant standards (wrt the time when they were performed), and concludes that therefore the authority is unlikely to take enforcement action.

    However, I understand that neither planning permission nor formal building consent were applied for when the extension was built.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    While that may be correct in terms of making you change the structure or construction of the extension, it may not be correct in terms of requiring you to satisfy them that the building doesn't need to be corrected. If they were aware that the extension exists and does not have the relevant building warrants, they may require you to apply for retrospective building consents. This costs money and is probably why your seller doesn't want to do it.

    I think it would be reasonable to negotiate a reduction in the sale price in order to provide you with the cash so that you can apply for retrospective building consents.

    Consider this: What happens if you try to sell the house in 5 years and building regulations have changed by then? Without retrospective building consent, the house is still open to the local authority requiring the new owner to bring the extension to modern standards.

    The letter of comfort only assures you that *if* the local authority asked you to obtain retrospective building consents, this would not be problematic in that the extension meets current standards. But building standards are a moving target and in 5 years, this letter of comfort may no longer be correct.

    I think you need to discuss this issue with your solicitor. He may simply want this sale off his desk . I am currently dealing with a solicitor who is exactly this way.

    Later edit: See the text in red. This is also irrelevant - if you were required to apply for retrospective building consents, you would need to bring the extension to *current* building standards.

    Further edit(!) Apologies - I didn't spot that the extension dates from 2003. You would not need to apply for retrospective building consent, but might be required to apply for a Letter of Comfort from the local authority, in which case it is much less likely that you'd be required to bring up to modern standards (although not completely out of the question). At the very least, ask for the receipts for the work, so you can establish that the extension was built in 2003. Alterations and additions pre-May 2005 are not required to apply for retrospective building consent (hence why seller is reluctant to do this).

    What is the local authority for the house?
    Last edited by dunroving; 09-05-2018 at 4:28 PM.
    (Nearly) dunroving
    • ProDave
    • By ProDave 9th May 18, 4:17 PM
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    ProDave
    Well, because my solicitor is involved in the sale, anyway.
    Opinion from a neutral party is more significant; you just provided that, so thank you!
    .
    Originally posted by phloaw
    YOUR solicitor should only be interested in your purchase of the property, he should NOT have any interest in it's sale. You need a different solicitor. I am surprised he took on the job without declaring his conflict of interests.
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 9th May 18, 4:22 PM
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    davidmcn
    YOUR solicitor should only be interested in your purchase of the property, he should NOT have any interest in it's sale. You need a different solicitor. I am surprised he took on the job without declaring his conflict of interests.
    Originally posted by ProDave
    I'm not sure whether that's quite what the OP meant - maybe they can clarify. We are somewhat stricter in Scotland than in England about conflicts of interest so it ought to be less likely to happen.
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 9th May 18, 4:25 PM
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    phloaw
    YOUR solicitor should only be interested in your purchase of the property, he should NOT have any interest in it's sale. You need a different solicitor. I am surprised he took on the job without declaring his conflict of interests.
    Originally posted by ProDave
    I probably chose poor wording: I have no reason to believe my solicitor has any improper interest in the property's sale.
    I trust my solicitor.
    Maybe I should just have said that I'd like to have third party opinions, just in case
    • dunroving
    • By dunroving 9th May 18, 4:32 PM
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    dunroving
    OP: Google "building consent Scotland letter of comfort" for further relevant information.
    (Nearly) dunroving
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 9th May 18, 4:33 PM
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    phloaw
    While that may be correct in terms of making you change the structure or construction of the extension, it may not be correct in terms of requiring you to satisfy them that the building doesn't need to be corrected. If they were aware that the extension exists and does not have the relevant building warrants, they may require you to apply for retrospective building consents. This costs money and is probably why your seller doesn't want to do it.

    I think it would be reasonable to negotiate a reduction in the sale price in order to provide you with the cash so that you can apply for retrospective building consents.

    Consider this: What happens if you try to sell the house in 5 years and building regulations have changed by then? Without retrospective building consent, the house is still open to the local authority requiring the new owner to bring the extension to modern standards.

    The letter of comfort only assures you that *if* the local authority asked you to obtain retrospective building consents, this would not be problematic in that the extension meets current standards. But building standards are a moving target and in 5 years, this letter of comfort may no longer be correct.

    I think you need to discuss this issue with your solicitor. He may simply want this sale off his desk . I am currently dealing with a solicitor who is exactly this way.

    Later edit: See the text in red. This is also irrelevant - if you were required to apply for retrospective building consents, you would need to bring the extension to *current* building standards.

    Further edit(!) Apologies - I didn't spot that the extension dates from 2003. You would not need to apply for retrospective building consent, but might be required to apply for a Letter of Comfort from the local authority, in which case it is much less likely that you'd be required to bring up to modern standards (although not completely out of the question). At the very least, ask for the receipts for the work, so you can establish that the extension was built in 2003. Alterations and additions pre-May 2005 are not required to apply for retrospective building consent (hence why seller is reluctant to do this).
    Originally posted by dunroving
    Ok, I think this was the most useful reply among the several useful ones I got up to now.
    I sort of feel it spells out the kind of worries I couldn't articulate in a precise way.
    Including ones about my solicitor's attitude
    I'll try to investigate matters more deeply along these lines.

    What is the local authority for the house?
    I believe the local authority for the house is Fife Council.
    • dunroving
    • By dunroving 9th May 18, 4:36 PM
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    dunroving
    Ok, I think this was the most useful reply among the several useful ones I got up to now.
    I sort of feel it spells out the kind of worries I couldn't articulate in a precise way.
    Including ones about my solicitor's attitude
    I'll try to investigate matters more deeply along these lines.

    I believe the local authority for the house is Fife Council.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    For information on Fife Council's process for inspecting buildings without consent, click here.
    (Nearly) dunroving
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 9th May 18, 4:39 PM
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    davidmcn
    Building control departments barely have enough resources to cope with their current workload, never mind trawl through minor works done 15+ years ago looking for things to enforce (even if that were possible). Nobody is going to come knocking on the door asking you to sort out the paperwork. By the time you come to sell, it will be an even more historic non-issue (and I would point out that the standard missives work on the basis that everyone can ignore alterations which are over 20 years old).
    • dunroving
    • By dunroving 9th May 18, 4:50 PM
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    dunroving
    Building control departments barely have enough resources to cope with their current workload, never mind trawl through minor works done 15+ years ago looking for things to enforce (even if that were possible). Nobody is going to come knocking on the door asking you to sort out the paperwork. By the time you come to sell, it will be an even more historic non-issue (and I would point out that the standard missives work on the basis that everyone can ignore alterations which are over 20 years old).
    Originally posted by davidmcn
    While I would normally accept this characterisation of local authority employees, one turned up on my door within 4 hours of receiving a call about my house (as per my recent thread you kindly posted on). However, I agree that in the OP's case the local authority would likely have no cause to knock on his door.

    OP, here is my opinion of what has likely happened.

    Seller realised the lack of building consents might impede the sale of his house (maybe because the solicitor or surveyor flagged it up).

    He looked into what he would need to do and found information on the letter of comfort process.

    To satisfy himself there were no issues, he paid a structural engineer to inspect the extension and write the letter (albeit this is not the traditional letter of comfort, which would come from the local authority).

    He didn't want to raise any flags with the local authority, as this might open a can of worms.

    Typically, local authorities try to process letters of comfort quickly, especially if a house sale is contingent on it.

    OP: An important consideration if the extension and possible lack of building consents is mentioned in the survey is whether your lender will be reluctant to lend on the property. With a letter of comfort, this is less likely, but still a possibility. You might also discuss with your solicitor the possibility of asking the seller to pay for indemnity insurance.
    Last edited by dunroving; 09-05-2018 at 5:08 PM.
    (Nearly) dunroving
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