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  • FIRST POST
    • JayZed
    • By JayZed 10th May 18, 6:29 PM
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    JayZed
    Buying property - historic removal of internal wall causing problems
    • #1
    • 10th May 18, 6:29 PM
    Buying property - historic removal of internal wall causing problems 10th May 18 at 6:29 PM
    I am buying a house and was due to exchange tomorrow, but everythingís now up in the air. The lender is refusing to proceed because there is no evidence of building regs for an internal load-bearing wall that was removed at some point in the twentieth century. Iím absolutely livid because we have been consistently advised that this wouldnít be a problem.

    We received our mortgage offer about six weeks ago, and a mortgage valuation inspection was undertaken at the time. The mortgage valuation noted that an internal load-bearing wall had been removed (although this was not noted on the homebuyers survey that we obtained around the same time.).

    Our vendors (who have been in the property about 20 years) did not know when the relevant wall had been removed, and our solicitor was not able to find any evidence of building regs approval on the councilís online register (but that only goes back 10 years or so). So it looks likely that the wall was removed at least 20 years ago (and quite possibly 30 or 40 years ago), and we donít know whether there was building regs approval.

    Our solicitor obtained a building regs indemnity policy (which obviously doesnít cover structural defect risks per se, but covers the risk of the council requiring work to be put right). This was provided to our lender for approval more than two weeks ago. Our solicitor has repeatedly assured us repeatedly that this is all that the lender (HSBC) would require, and that the lenderís acceptance of this would be a formality and there was no risk of their not accepting it.

    Now, on the eve of exchange, HSBC have come back and said that building regs indemnity is not sufficient to cover the risk of any structural defects in the work done, and that they require either evidence of building regs or a structural engineerís survey to be undertaken to confirm that the work is sound.

    Our solicitor claims to be gobsmacked and says that she has never know a lender to require this in this kind of situation before. She is planning to call the council tomorrow to enquire what historical record there is of building regs being granted for the property, although knowing this council it could take them a week or more to come back to her - and if we do need to get a structural survey that will take longer still.

    I have a few questions:

    1) Is the position being taken by the lender highly unusual, as our solicitor claims?

    2) Based on the limited details above, does is sound as though we have been well advised by our solicitor? I accept that itís not possible to give a definitive view on that based on a short Internet forum post.

    3) Is there any risk that by contacting the council our solicitor could invalidate any buildings regs indemnity policy that we do end up taking out? Our solicitor says thereís no risk as long as she only asks general questions about what building regs have been granted and doesnít ask specifically about the removal of an internal wall, but Iím nervous about this.

    4) If our solicitor canít find any evidence of building regs, I canít really see any option other than to get a structural survey done, which frankly seems absurd and disproportionate. Any ideas for any alternative approaches (short of looking for a new mortgage deal)?
Page 1
    • BrassicWoman
    • By BrassicWoman 10th May 18, 6:41 PM
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    BrassicWoman
    • #2
    • 10th May 18, 6:41 PM
    • #2
    • 10th May 18, 6:41 PM
    I think you are cross at the wrong people.

    Why are you worrying more about the mortgage and not the structral integrity of the building?

    Do you know what the wall was replaced with?

    This is the sellers problem TBH not yours and I would be asking them for a discount to the amount of the report required.
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    • Hoploz
    • By Hoploz 10th May 18, 6:50 PM
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    Hoploz
    • #3
    • 10th May 18, 6:50 PM
    • #3
    • 10th May 18, 6:50 PM
    Get the structural survey organised ASAP.

    It's a shame it has come up now rather than earlier on but assuming nothing untoward is found then it'll be much more helpful to you living in the property for the years to come than an indemnity policy which is totally useless.
    • the_r_sole
    • By the_r_sole 10th May 18, 6:51 PM
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    the_r_sole
    • #4
    • 10th May 18, 6:51 PM
    • #4
    • 10th May 18, 6:51 PM
    If it's 30 years old and hasn't fallen down then it doesn't seem like there's a huge risk! Lenders and solicitors seem pretty awful at understanding the significant things in alterations and permissions, it's the blind leading the blind usually...
    If the council are contacted you, indemnity insurance becomes impossible but it's absolutely pointless too!
    In your case I would just get the structural report done asap and move on, it's not a huge cost, engineers that we work with charge about a half day to inspect a single element like that and give you a report saying it's fine
    • moneyistooshorttomention
    • By moneyistooshorttomention 10th May 18, 6:59 PM
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    moneyistooshorttomention
    • #5
    • 10th May 18, 6:59 PM
    • #5
    • 10th May 18, 6:59 PM
    Get the structural survey organised ASAP.

    It's a shame it has come up now rather than earlier on but assuming nothing untoward is found then it'll be much more helpful to you living in the property for the years to come than an indemnity policy which is totally useless.
    Originally posted by Hoploz
    I have heard of collapsing ceilings due to inadequate support during alterations - rare....but it has happened to a few people.

    I bet it's a Victorian terrace house and the wall got removed between the two reception rooms?? If so - that's exactly what my last house was like when I bought it. As far as I could make out there was adequate support - sort of "pillars" each side of where the original wall started. Not a word got said by my surveyor - or anyone else.

    What I chose to do subsequently myself was to put the wall back up again that had been there between the 2 rooms - as I didnt want the "through lounge" the house had instead.

    Point being - it was no problem and very low cost to put that wall back up again. There were two possible ways to do it - 1. a plasterboard wall. 2. those large concrete blocks.

    Either way - it would then need replastering.

    I chose the concrete blocks option and my father did it for me and then replastered. We re-wallpapered. Job done and it really didnt take long at all or much money at all (though it obviously helps if one doesnt have to pay for the labour).

    So - I'm wondering if an alternative way of looking at this would be for you to decide to put the wall back up again and sign a letter to the effect that you promised to do so??

    *******

    If you didnt actually want the wall - then you'd have "bought time" to get a suitable survey of the situation done by an expert. If said expert said everything was fine = no problem and don't bother to do the wall after all. If said expert said there is a problem = do the wall.
    Like Frankie said - I did it my way.
    It's MY life......
    • JayZed
    • By JayZed 10th May 18, 7:19 PM
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    JayZed
    • #6
    • 10th May 18, 7:19 PM
    • #6
    • 10th May 18, 7:19 PM
    I!!!8217;m not concerned about the structural integrity of the building. This wall was removed at least 20 years ago, and there are no signs of any structural problems. I!!!8217;m willing to get a structural survey to keep the lender happy, but the delay that this will cause is going to be problematic for us for a variety of reasons, which is why I!!!8217;m livid that this is being requested now rather than six weeks ago.

    Our solicitor has repeatedly said that this is not something that any lender would have concerns about, and is now saying that she!!!8217;s never known a lender to ask for this before, so what I!!!8217;m trying to understand is whether this is an unusual situation or not. If it is, then why is the lender taking this approach? If it isn!!!8217;t, then why were we advised that this wasn!!!8217;t an issue and that an indemnity policy would be sufficient?
    • JayZed
    • By JayZed 10th May 18, 7:21 PM
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    JayZed
    • #7
    • 10th May 18, 7:21 PM
    • #7
    • 10th May 18, 7:21 PM
    Sorry, don!!!8217;t know why my apostrophes are coming out like that.
    • BrassicWoman
    • By BrassicWoman 10th May 18, 7:33 PM
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    BrassicWoman
    • #8
    • 10th May 18, 7:33 PM
    • #8
    • 10th May 18, 7:33 PM
    How do you know 100% it was done 20 years ago? Just curious.
    Jan 18 grocery challenge £105.13/ £150
    • JayZed
    • By JayZed 10th May 18, 7:39 PM
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    JayZed
    • #9
    • 10th May 18, 7:39 PM
    • #9
    • 10th May 18, 7:39 PM
    We know it had already been removed when our vendors bought it (unless they are lying, and we have no reason to think that is the case). Also we know that a conservatory was added to the rear of the house in 1995, and the layout means that it is very unlikely that the wall was there when the conservatory was added - although it could conceivably have been removed at the same time that the conservatory was added.
    • shortcrust
    • By shortcrust 10th May 18, 7:41 PM
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    shortcrust
    How do you know 100% it was done 20 years ago? Just curious.
    Originally posted by BrassicWoman
    Because the sellers say so. And what reason would the sellers have to bend the truth a little? Hmmm.
    • BrassicWoman
    • By BrassicWoman 10th May 18, 7:43 PM
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    BrassicWoman
    We know it had already been removed when our vendors bought it (unless they are lying, and we have no reason to think that is the case).
    Originally posted by JayZed
    This is the single most expensive thing you will ever buy, from someone you may not have even met, or have met for an hour?

    I know it is frustrating... I persoanally couldn't sleep without having had an expert look it over though!
    Jan 18 grocery challenge £105.13/ £150
    • EachPenny
    • By EachPenny 10th May 18, 7:52 PM
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    EachPenny
    We received our mortgage offer about six weeks ago, and a mortgage valuation inspection was undertaken at the time. The mortgage valuation noted that an internal load-bearing wall had been removed (although this was not noted on the homebuyers survey that we obtained around the same time.).

    Our vendors (who have been in the property about 20 years) did not know when the relevant wall had been removed, and our solicitor was not able to find any evidence of building regs approval on the councilís online register (but that only goes back 10 years or so). So it looks likely that the wall was removed at least 20 years ago (and quite possibly 30 or 40 years ago), and we donít know whether there was building regs approval.
    Originally posted by JayZed
    That's where the error lies. As soon as the mortgage valuation flagged up the missing loadbearing wall then obtaining information from the Council should have been a priority. Relying on an online system with only a limited time coverage was not good enough, an enquiry going back to the year dot should have been made at that time.

    4) If our solicitor canít find any evidence of building regs, I canít really see any option other than to get a structural survey done, which frankly seems absurd and disproportionate. Any ideas for any alternative approaches (short of looking for a new mortgage deal)?
    Originally posted by JayZed
    If there is no evidence alteration work has been carried out in compliance with building regs then a full structural survey seems to be the very minimum you need.

    Remember your priorities. You are buying this property, if it is likely to fall down or cost you money to put right then you need to know before you hand over your money. Don't be angry with the people who are trying to stop you making a potentially disastrous purchase.
    "In the future, everyone will be rich for 15 minutes"
    • Tom99
    • By Tom99 11th May 18, 2:03 AM
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    Tom99
    I would get the structural engineers survey done but all that is likely to say is that there is no current evidence of structural movement, will that satisfy HSBC?
    The only way of determining whether the correct load bearing beam or whatever has been inserted would be to open up the structure and see, and the seller may well not allow that in the circumstances.
    • JayZed
    • By JayZed 11th May 18, 10:55 AM
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    JayZed
    I think people are missing the point of my questions. I'm not asking whether or not I should get a structural survey done or whether there's a structural integrity risk.

    I'm being told by my solicitor that this is unprecedented and that this is the first time in her experience (20+ years) that a bank has refused to accept an indemnity policy in a situation like this. I want to know whether it is true that this is a highly unusual request from the bank, or alternatively whether our solicitor should have advised us three weeks ago that we would need a structural survey if the buildings regs approval could not be found.
    • the_r_sole
    • By the_r_sole 11th May 18, 11:13 AM
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    the_r_sole
    I think people are missing the point of my questions. I'm not asking whether or not I should get a structural survey done or whether there's a structural integrity risk.

    I'm being told by my solicitor that this is unprecedented and that this is the first time in her experience (20+ years) that a bank has refused to accept an indemnity policy in a situation like this. I want to know whether it is true that this is a highly unusual request from the bank, or alternatively whether our solicitor should have advised us three weeks ago that we would need a structural survey if the buildings regs approval could not be found.
    Originally posted by JayZed
    There is minimal risk if it's been in place for 20+ years if you were using your own money to buy it, you could make the call, unfortunately the lender wants this assurance before they give you the money.
    I have never heard of indemnity not being accepted, it's invented by insurance companies to make money as there is zero risk in issuing a policy to protect against local authority enforcement - in all honesty, it could be that lenders are starting to understand what indemnity policies are for and starting to ask for real protection of their assets. Your solicitor is proposing a solution and unfortunately it's not been accepted by the lender, they wouldn't have known three weeks ago that indemnity wouldn't be accepted or that a structural survey would be required by the lender, I would imagine it would be the last thing they would have suggested
    • EachPenny
    • By EachPenny 11th May 18, 7:46 PM
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    EachPenny
    I think people are missing the point of my questions. I'm not asking whether or not I should get a structural survey done or whether there's a structural integrity risk.

    I'm being told by my solicitor that this is unprecedented and that this is the first time in her experience (20+ years) that a bank has refused to accept an indemnity policy in a situation like this. I want to know whether it is true that this is a highly unusual request from the bank, or alternatively whether our solicitor should have advised us three weeks ago that we would need a structural survey if the buildings regs approval could not be found.
    Originally posted by JayZed
    I don't know how common it is, but I don't find it at all surprising. The answer is in your original post:-
    Our solicitor obtained a building regs indemnity policy (which obviously doesnít cover structural defect risks per se, but covers the risk of the council requiring work to be put right). This was provided to our lender for approval more than two weeks ago. Our solicitor has repeatedly assured us repeatedly that this is all that the lender (HSBC) would require, and that the lenderís acceptance of this would be a formality and there was no risk of their not accepting it.
    Originally posted by JayZed
    If I was the lender I'd only be marginally worried that the council might take enforcement action. I would be far more worried that the structure was potentially unsafe and could collapse, taking my security with it. The indemnity offers me no protection whatsoever against the latter.

    The bank would no doubt also assess the risk of getting a buildings insurance policy to pay out when you'd been alerted in advance that the structure was potentially unsafe.

    The only way of resolving this is to either get the Building Control records (if they exist), or to get a structural engineer to inspect and report. Otherwise you are purchasing a Jenga which could stand for 1000 years, or could collapse tomorrow. Why would a bank want to take that risk?

    In terms of the level of risk, the 10/20/30/40 year thing is misleading. There is no evidence other than the vendors word when the work was carried out. The idea it has been standing for 10/20/30/40 years and therefore is low risk doesn't mean anything because it is quite possible the work was only done the day before you first viewed the property. The absence of building regulations approval is not evidence that the work was done a long time ago.

    Your vendors might be lovely trustworthy people, but the bank doesn't care. It only looks at what the surveyor and paper trail are saying.
    "In the future, everyone will be rich for 15 minutes"
    • BrassicWoman
    • By BrassicWoman 11th May 18, 7:54 PM
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    BrassicWoman
    I want to know whether it is true that this is a highly unusual request from the bank, or alternatively whether our solicitor should have advised us three weeks ago that we would need a structural survey if the buildings regs approval could not be found.
    Originally posted by JayZed
    So you want to know who to blame?

    Sometimes, no one is to blame; things just are.
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    • BrassicWoman
    • By BrassicWoman 11th May 18, 8:04 PM
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    BrassicWoman
    follow on thread

    https://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=5841678
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