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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 2
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 9th May 18, 4:51 PM
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    phloaw
    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.
    Originally posted by davidmcn
    This sounds plausible to me.
    Keep in mind, however, that a future buyer could like to have, given the amount of money involved, full formal compliance with law, not merely an informal reassurance that things are practically, even though not formally, ok.
    Indeed, this is what I'd like to have, as the current buyer.
    This means that I'd need to assess the impact this factor will have when I'll need to resell it (and this was the main issue as specified in the original post).
    And it is likely I'll have to resell the property within some years (sorry, I didn't specify this, I realise now).
    I realise this kind of assessment can be difficult, however.


    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).
    This is interesting. Is there any formal regulation about that 20 years rule? Or is not a rule, but just an informal practice?
    • googler
    • By googler 9th May 18, 4:58 PM
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    googler
    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.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    Some EAs use floorplanning software to generate their own, others sub-contract the work to others, sending a rough sketch to a third-party, and receiving a finished plan in return.

    In the latter case, sometimes the EA offers the floorplan as a chargeable item when pricing the schedules; so if the seller wants to save X and leave the floorplan out, they can do so.

    So the decision to leave it out may have been the seller's, not the EA's ...
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 9th May 18, 4:59 PM
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    davidmcn
    This sounds plausible to me.
    Keep in mind, however, that a future buyer could like to have, given the amount of money involved, full formal compliance with law, not merely an informal reassurance that things are practically, even though not formally, ok.
    Indeed, this is what I'd like to have, as the current buyer.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    But the hypothetical buyer will hopefully have regard to the advice given to them by their solicitor, who will tell them that it's unrealistic (and in many cases impossible) to expect full retrospective compliance with every alteration which has been carried out to a property.

    If anyone really thinks there is a risk then they can get indemnity insurance to cover the possibility of the council taking enforcement action. Which is dirt cheap, because the risk is minimal. Though not an option if you've already "tipped off" the council by contacting them about the issue.

    Is there any formal regulation about that 20 years rule? Or is not a rule, but just an informal practice?
    It's informal practice. You have to draw a line somewhere. And if people as cautious as lawyers and mortgage lenders think that's a reasonable place to draw it then I'd go along with them.
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 10th May 18, 9:00 AM
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    phloaw
    Thanks for the helpful advice everyone.
    I think I'm going to walk away: the seller first hurried me into an offer by setting a closing date, and now I find out he hid to me this problem which, as a minimum, is a bit more complicated than my solicitor wish it would be. I don't trust the seller any longer, therefore I'm not confident about spending such an amount of money to buy from him.
    I am wondering whether there is any way of preventing more buyer from falling into his trap: is there a way in which I can publicly communicate the problem he wants to hide? I was thinking of leaving leaflets around the property advertising the problem.
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 10th May 18, 9:11 AM
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    davidmcn
    Thanks for the helpful advice everyone.
    I think I'm going to walk away: the seller first hurried me into an offer by setting a closing date, and now I find out he hid to me this problem which, as a minimum, is a bit more complicated than my solicitor wish it would be. I don't trust the seller any longer, therefore I'm not confident about spending such an amount of money to buy from him.
    I am wondering whether there is any way of preventing more buyer from falling into his trap: is there a way in which I can publicly communicate the problem he wants to hide? I was thinking of leaving leaflets around the property advertising the problem.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    Like I said originally, your solicitor's advice seems reasonable and it's really not a reason to walk away from the transaction. It's not much of a problem, it's certainly not a "trap", and distributing leaflets will just make you look like a nutter.
    • googler
    • By googler 10th May 18, 10:14 AM
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    googler
    the seller first hurried me into an offer by setting a closing date

    ... which is standard practice in Scotland

    , and now I find out he hid to me this problem ... I am wondering whether there is any way of preventing more buyer from falling into his trap: is there a way in which I can publicly communicate the problem he wants to hide? I was thinking of leaving leaflets around the property advertising the problem.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    Saying what? That the seller is in the same position as hundreds, possibly thousands of others around the country, having completed changes to their property without full and proper paperwork?

    "Around the property" - where? On street furniture? In neighbours' gardens? Through neighbours' letterboxes? Why would the neighbours care? There's little likelihood of them moving two doors down...
    • the_r_sole
    • By the_r_sole 10th May 18, 10:29 AM
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    the_r_sole
    Fife council can barely manage to process the warrant applications that are paid for, they're not going to be going out looking for work!
    If you've got a letter of comfort that shows the vendor has attempted to address the issue, not sure why that wouldn't satisfy you for a 15 year old extension?
    Closing dates happen in scotland as soon as two people are interested, it's absolutely normal and if you are ready to make an offer then it's hardly rushing you, you could easily have not made an offer!!
    • dunroving
    • By dunroving 10th May 18, 11:08 AM
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    dunroving
    Thanks for the helpful advice everyone.
    I think I'm going to walk away: the seller first hurried me into an offer by setting a closing date, and now I find out he hid to me this problem which, as a minimum, is a bit more complicated than my solicitor wish it would be. I don't trust the seller any longer, therefore I'm not confident about spending such an amount of money to buy from him.
    I am wondering whether there is any way of preventing more buyer from falling into his trap: is there a way in which I can publicly communicate the problem he wants to hide? I was thinking of leaving leaflets around the property advertising the problem.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    I think you are overreacting. It's your decision whether to buy, but scattering leaflets is just a daft idea.
    (Nearly) dunroving
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 10th May 18, 11:43 AM
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    phloaw
    Saying what? That the seller is in the same position as hundreds, possibly thousands of others around the country, having completed changes to their property without full and proper paperwork?
    Originally posted by googler
    No, just saying that there is an irregularity and that the seller omitted to mention it to previous candidate buyers until the latter's solicitor found out.
    This looks like misconduct to me. Maybe I'm missing something?
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 10th May 18, 11:49 AM
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    davidmcn
    No, just saying that there is an irregularity and that the seller omitted to mention it to previous candidate buyers until the latter's solicitor found out.
    This looks like misconduct to me. Maybe I'm missing something?
    Originally posted by phloaw
    Not sure what you mean by "omitted to mention it". Had the seller warranted that there hadn't been any alterations? Did they carry out the extension? Did the Home Report surveyor not mention it? How did your solicitor know that there had been an extension if they hadn't even visited the property?
    Last edited by davidmcn; 10-05-2018 at 11:51 AM.
    • dunroving
    • By dunroving 10th May 18, 11:50 AM
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    dunroving
    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.
    Originally posted by dunroving
    No, just saying that there is an irregularity and that the seller omitted to mention it to previous candidate buyers until the latter's solicitor found out.
    This looks like misconduct to me. Maybe I'm missing something?
    Originally posted by phloaw
    As per my previous post (bold, above), the seller may have only become aware there was an issue as he progressed through the sale process.

    I think it is worth giving him the benefit of the doubt, as there may not have been anything underhand. It is surprising how many homeowners, buyers and sellers are unaware of these things (take yourself, for instance). He may simply have not realised the importance of the issue rather than deliberately concealing things he knew were a problem.

    Separate issue, but are you 100% sure the current owner was even responsible for building the extension (rather than a previous owner)?
    (Nearly) dunroving
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 10th May 18, 12:00 PM
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    phloaw
    Not sure what you mean by "omitted to mention it". Had the seller warranted that there hadn't been any alterations?
    Did they carry out the extension? Did the Home Report surveyor not mention it? How did your solicitor know that there had been an extension if they hadn't even visited the property?
    Originally posted by davidmcn
    It was clear to me that there was an extension, from the beginning.
    The home report and the ad both made that clear.
    The point is that, if you put a property on sale, I assume every legal aspect has been sorted out.
    If not, and the seller hides that to me, or fails to make the problem clear for any reason, this is misconduct according to my standards, and I stop trusting him.
    Reading some answers, it looks like this means expecting too much on my side.
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 10th May 18, 12:02 PM
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    davidmcn
    It was clear to me that there was an extension, from the beginning.
    The home report and the ad both made that clear.
    The point is that, if you put a property on sale, I assume every legal aspect has been sorted out.
    If not, and the seller hides that to me, or fails to make the problem clear for any reason, this is misconduct according to my standards, and I stop trusting him.
    Reading some answers, it looks like this means expecting too much on my side.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    If it's mentioned in the seller's Home Report then by definition the seller isn't hiding it!

    You assume wrongly about "every legal aspect being sorted out", and I'm not sure where that assumption has come from.

    If you don't understand the basic principles involved in buying a house then you probably need to discuss them in more depth with your solicitor.
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 10th May 18, 12:04 PM
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    phloaw
    As per my previous post (bold, above), the seller may have only become aware there was an issue as he progressed through the sale process.

    I think it is worth giving him the benefit of the doubt, as there may not have been anything underhand. It is surprising how many homeowners, buyers and sellers are unaware of these things (take yourself, for instance). He may simply have not realised the importance of the issue rather than deliberately concealing things he knew were a problem.

    Separate issue, but are you 100% sure the current owner was even responsible for building the extension (rather than a previous owner)?
    Originally posted by dunroving
    No, I'm not sure.
    Your point about the benefit of doubt does indeed apply.
    So maybe I can drop the charge of misconduct, depending on the context
    However, they are still trying to leave a problem which should be theirs on my shoulders.
    I am thinking to try and negotiate a price reduction, before walking away.
    • googler
    • By googler 10th May 18, 12:04 PM
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    googler
    It was clear to me that there was an extension, from the beginning. The home report and the ad both made that clear. The point is that, if you put a property on sale, I assume every legal aspect has been sorted out.

    This is what you are paying your solicitor for. To verify these legal aspects. It appears your solicitor has done this correctly.

    If not, and the seller hides that to me, or fails to make the problem clear for any reason, this is misconduct according to my standards, and I stop trusting him. Reading some answers, it looks like this means expecting too much on my side.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    Yes, you're expecting the householder to be overtly familiar with all the legal aspects of this. This is not misconduct, merely lack of expertise and knowledge, neither of which are a prerequisite for being a house seller. That's for their agent and solicitor (and surveyor!).
    • dunroving
    • By dunroving 10th May 18, 12:06 PM
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    dunroving
    It was clear to me that there was an extension, from the beginning.
    The home report and the ad both made that clear.
    The point is that, if you put a property on sale, I assume every legal aspect has been sorted out.
    If not, and the seller hides that to me, or fails to make the problem clear for any reason, this is misconduct according to my standards, and I stop trusting him.
    Reading some answers, it looks like this means expecting too much on my side.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    I assume you are a first time buyer?

    Maybe trawl through the Waiting To Exchange thread. You'll quickly realise that legal problems come up constantly during the house purchase/sale process, and very often (in fact, usually) it isn't the seller's fault. !!!! happens.

    It's very possible if you pull out of this purchase that the next place you find also has a legal issue that needs sorting out. While it's prudent to be sceptical, if you are too cynical you may be in for a very long wait before you find a house seller that meets your ethical standards.

    I am currently dealing with legal issues with the house I am buying and it has nothing to do with the seller and everything to do with the previous owner and the seller's solicitor.
    (Nearly) dunroving
    • phloaw
    • By phloaw 10th May 18, 12:10 PM
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    phloaw
    If it's mentioned in the seller's Home Report then by definition the seller isn't hiding it!
    Originally posted by davidmcn
    Never said the the seller hid the extension.
    He hid (or failed to tell, which is the same from my pov) the fact that the extension is unlawful.

    You assume wrongly about "every legal aspect being sorted out", and I'm not sure where that assumption has come from.
    Could you please detail exactly which basic principle I'm missing here?
    This is a completely serious question, no sarcasm intended.

    If you don't understand the basic principles involved in buying a house then you probably need to discuss them in more depth with your solicitor.
    I think it has come from any other buying experience. I don't know: if you buy a car, would it be ok if you weren't able to drive it because it does not comply with current regulations, without the seller warning you?
    • davidmcn
    • By davidmcn 10th May 18, 12:19 PM
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    davidmcn
    Never said the the seller hid the extension.
    He hid (or failed to tell, which is the same from my pov) the fact that the extension is unlawful.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    There's no "hiding" or "failing to tell" at any stage prior to your solicitor conducting their due diligence, which is the stage you're at.

    Could you please detail exactly which basic principle I'm missing here?
    I'm not sure what you mean - you said you had formed an assumption, and I'm not sure why you had. There are always going to be elements of risk involved in property transactions, and it's unrealistic to expect those risks to be eliminated.

    if you buy a car, would it be ok if you weren't able to drive it because it does not comply with current regulations, without the seller warning you?
    I'm not sure this is a great analogy, but let's run with it - it's more like expecting a seller of a second-hand car to highlight every insignificant defect to you, even though you have your own expert checking it over anyway.
    • the_r_sole
    • By the_r_sole 10th May 18, 12:31 PM
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    the_r_sole
    It was clear to me that there was an extension, from the beginning.
    The home report and the ad both made that clear.
    The point is that, if you put a property on sale, I assume every legal aspect has been sorted out.
    If not, and the seller hides that to me, or fails to make the problem clear for any reason, this is misconduct according to my standards, and I stop trusting him.
    Reading some answers, it looks like this means expecting too much on my side.
    Originally posted by phloaw
    buy a new build
    • dunroving
    • By dunroving 14th May 18, 10:39 AM
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    dunroving
    OP, any updates on what you decided to do?
    (Nearly) dunroving
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