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pilotpete123
22nd Mar 2018, 17:38
Hi all,

I'm hoping someone can advise on a situation regarding a house that my partner and me are currently in the process of buying.

The house was advertised as a 4 Bed with one of the bedrooms being in the converted loft space. A survey as indicated that the staircase up to the loft is not compliant with current building regulations. The conversion was done around 30 years ago. I've not yet spoken to the estate agents or the conveyancer to find out what certification the loft conversion has as I'm just trying to educate myself as to whether this poses a problem. As I understand, you can apply for retrospective building regs from the local council for conversions of a certain age. A quick google search as also indicated that the older a conversion is, the less important it is to even have approval.

However, will I ever be able to sell this property as a 4 bed when I come to sell it? If I were to ever want to rent the house out could I rent out 4 bedrooms? Should I reduce my offer to reflect a 3 bed house with a loft conversion?

Any input from people who have been in a similar situation or have any industry knowledge would be appreciated!

Many thanks,

PP

UniFoxOs
22nd Mar 2018, 18:40
As long as the alteration was done in accordance with the Building Regs at the time there should be no problem. Staircases to loft conversion are often too narrow or steep IMO, but all right for fit young people - don't try to keep your granny up there.

LowNSlow
22nd Mar 2018, 18:59
If you were to rent it as an HMO (House in Multiple Occupation) it needs to comply with the 1991 Building Regulations as a minimum.

My brother in law once did a loft conversion but as he didn't get building regs approval for it the estate agents would only advertise it as a 3 bed with loft conversion. They said that it would be illegal to advertise the loft room as a bedroom.

Which estate agent is advertising it?

VP959
22nd Mar 2018, 19:11
There are several issues re: building regs with a loft conversion, potentially, but if it was all signed off by building control at the time (your local LABC should have the records of the work, as it was notifiable) then, as UFO wrote above, regulations cannot be applied retrospectively except in the case of a house that's to be rented, especially as an HMO.

The main issues (assuming this is a two storey house with a loft conversion forming a third storey) relate not just to the staircase angle, security from falling (i.e. banisters, gaps between rails etc) but also to whether it needs to be a fire protected staircase. There are also regulations relate to the escape from fire, that probably require a fire escape window in that room.

It's pretty common for building regulations completion certificates to get lost, and solicitors now tend to be a lot better at picking this up, not sure why, but I've heard of a few cases recently where this has happened.

Sadly, there were (and probably still are) some loft conversion cowboys around, who did conversions with no attempt to comply with building regs, and one of these can cause problems with buying/selling for a whole host of reasons.

A competent surveyor should pick up on any non-compliances with the regs that applied at the time pretty easily, as most of it is stuff that can be easily visually checked, and as yours has, I'd ask for some details about the exact non-compliances he/she has found. Some may be easy to fix, others, like the need for a fire protected stairwell and fire door, if needed, may not be as easy to fix.

Pontius Navigator
22nd Mar 2018, 22:02
We just sold. The key is the date the work began.

I began conversion of a garage to utility room before Nov 85. Technically this did not require building control certificate. We also installed an en suite, as this was after 2005, we needed building control certificate for the electrical work.

When the building control officer visited she noted there was no fire door between garage and utility. I needed a fire door and automatic closure.

The process was painless, she made an advisory visit and told me the works required. I did these, paid the fee, she returned and issued the certificate by email the same day. Fees are based on their assessment of the cost of the work. Mine was 330.

You should also insist on an electrical safety certificate, gas safety, chimney sweep certificate, FENSA certificate for any glazing work done since 2005.

These should all be provided by the vendor.

Is the house in a radon area? Is there a current check (takes about 3 months to run tests).

Pontius Navigator
22nd Mar 2018, 22:05
I might add, my fire door cost IRO 120 including furniture and 80 to fit. If all doors need upgrading . . .

mfaff
23rd Mar 2018, 10:07
There are three different questions you are asking.

1) If the works do date from 1988 (30 years ago) and you are occupying the house as your own residence then Building Regs (BR) are not immediately relevant to you. If any party, say your home insurance carrier, requires a BR certificate then one that is based on the regs in force at the time is the only one that can be demanded. Compliance with current regs is not needed. The first port of call is the local planning authority website. You can search for the property (by exact address of steel name usually) and see any applications for planning and building regs that they have on record. The majority of authorities are pretty good, you may simply get a file number and need to go to see the microfiche on site.

2) If and when you sell it on then you are free to advertise it as whatever you wish. The issue is how a potential purchaser will view the home and hence its value. A sharp surveyor/ agent will use any lack of certification as a means by which to reduce the offer that is made. In addition any work you undertake or have done to the property will need to be in accord with the current Building Regs. In addition you may find that this additional work affects other areas of the home and in order to remain within the Building regs other work may be required (such as previously referenced issues such as 'fall from height protection, balustrade openings, fire protection etc).

3) If you wish to rent it out commercially then you will be obliged to provide documentation that confirms the property conforms to the current requirements of such accommodation. This applies as such to physical and fire safety as to electrical and gas installations. I'd suggest that the works need to demonstrate such compliance will be significant and that the access to the third level is but one of a number of tasks that are needed in order for the property's compliance to be documented.

Finally the offer you make is going to be the one that you feel will be successful. Another party may be looking to purchase this as a family home and so less bothered with the paper trail. Others may take a view that this trail is important....if they are looking at future commercial ventures with the property.

I have experienced a similar situation for my own home and that of my next door neighbour. Our properties were converted from a 1895 two storey house into two separate three storey homes in 1985. I have all of the before and after drawings on file as well as the planning applications etc. There are however no Building Regs applications on file and our Council is adamant that there are no records of a BR application.

My house does not comply with current building regs for physical safety or means of escape...lots of physical solutions that defy the current regs. However there is no requirement to alter the house to do so as long as it is my own home, not rented or leased. In addition I know that both my gas fired boiler installation and electrical installation do not meet current standards. Neither of these is an issue with my buildings and contents insurance carrier as there is no legal requirement for this level of compliance.

My neighbour, when changing home insurance companies, was asked to provide the Building Regs certificate. This either non existent or lost. However that house, built as a 'for sale' element does comply with the regs in force at the time. We arranged for an independent Building Regs inspector to visit the property and to issue a notice of inspection which detailed the key provisions of the home with regard to the Building Regs in force at the time and any significant alterations that had been done since (changing windows). As this property is also a permanent home this solution appears to be satisfactory to the insurance carrier.

Hope this helps

Grayfly
23rd Mar 2018, 13:02
There is also something called an Indemnity Policy for lack of Building Regulation documentation or approval. Your solicitor should know about this and the vendor usually has to pay for it if they can't provide the BR documentation.

This protects you from comebacks from the local authority or decrease in market value... allegedly. I have one for my current residence but haven't had to use it in anger.

Gertrude the Wombat
23rd Mar 2018, 13:07
When I bought my house my solicitor discovered that the brick shed built onto the back of the garage had never had the required building regs inspection. He suggested I keep quiet about it and twelve years later this wouldn't matter - I have now lived there for more than twelve years.

anchorhold
23rd Mar 2018, 15:35
I have been in this position, I submitted plans to the local authority for an attic conversion in a Victorian property, but they rejected them as they required fire doors all through the house and to have the stair case enclosed. As the house had period wood doors firedoors were not really an option, likewise boxing the staircase in would have seriously reduced the space in the attic.

In the end I did not go for planning building consent, but converted it as a non habitable room, but used it as a study and occasional bedroom. When I sold the house the estate agent could not describe it as a study. However, when I sold it it was obvious that the room could be used as a study.

Again when selling this house, the puchasers solicitors and surveyor queried the kitchen extension I had built, both I and the local authority had lost the building consent documents. So my solicitor arranged for an indemnity certificate which cost me around 80.

You best plan is probably to contact at building control officer at your local authority, for an informal chat, they are on the whole very helpful,

On final thing, and I think I would have converted my attic rather differently, if I was to do it again it would be to take down the celing in one bedroom and form a floor over the remaining bedrooms and bathroom. Effectively forming a mezzanene to the bedroom. I suspect the mezzanene would be considered part of the bedrrom under fire regulations. The newly crated space could be used as a ensuit bathroom, study or sleeping area.

All this you need to confirm with bulting control.

Icare9
23rd Mar 2018, 23:47
Depends on how much you want this particular property.
As previously stated, most estate agents won't accept a loft conversion as a proper bedroom unless it complies with the Local Authority Regs at the time the conversion was done.

You want a safe and secure home for yourselves and family, even if overnight stayers, so you have to ensure it is safe to use.

The vendor is going to have this problem with any potential buyers unless they are lucky to get a mug without proper advice and relying solely on a Building Society survey, not one they commission, which will tell them warts and all.

There's no harm in checking with your to be Local Authority about any Planning History for the building, usually available online Search of their Planning Applications. If no prior Approval, you then need to find out what the situation is, could you get a retrospective Approval, or will it have 2018 standards applied, and if so can you factor in the cost against the purchase price.

There is usually a glut of available housing, so don't think this has to be your purchase, look elsewhere to see if you can get something more preferable without a potential headache.

Our neighbour's husband installed a loft conversion and staircase, but the placement of the ladder/staircase is so awkward you'd need to be a retired acrobat to use it for other than storage.

Your call

Gertrude the Wombat
24th Mar 2018, 00:26
You want a safe and secure home for yourselves and family, even if overnight stayers, so you have to ensure it is safe to use.
There are four doors to the outside from our house (we've got two semis knocked together), only one of which can usually be opened without a key.

So whenever someone stays the night I take them round the house and show them where the key is for each door, in case of fire. The usual response to this safety briefing is bemusement that I've bothered.

pilotpete123
24th Mar 2018, 12:11
Thanks for all the advice everyone, very much appreciated. A chat to the council and solicitor it is then!

ImageGear
24th Mar 2018, 13:28
It would appear I had a similar problem, we purchased our house 20 years ago with an existing professional loft conversion, done with two RSJ's across the width of the house.

A rather heavy fire door is installed and to comply with regulations at the time, a box bolted to the wall by the window and a tape of loops down which one was supposed to descend. I imagine one would be crisped up like a pork sausage while trying to reach the ground

Some years later, I installed a pair of velux hinging windows in the roof which are certified fire exits. Now it's a simple step up onto the tiles and a walk along the roof line to where one can be lifted off if necessary. (It's a town house). I have some basic plans but they do not give much detail, so I will be going on line to see what is available.

IG

ChrisVJ
24th Mar 2018, 21:22
Years ago we converted a London house into fice apartments, did the whole thing ourselves with cheap labour. Electrical permits, plumbing permits, adding an extra floor, fire doors through out, government grants for the conversion, governmant grants for the labour, paperwork up the ying yang, hundreds of inspections (well, tens, but doesn't sound so good.)

Three years after we had left the country the local authority couldn't find a single permit.

Gertrude the Wombat
24th Mar 2018, 21:40
Three years after we had left the country the local authority couldn't find a single permit.
Chances are they also can't find their copies of the restrictive covenants that were applied to your house when it was built in (say) 1948. So guess how much notice you have to take of them?

ChrisVJ
24th Mar 2018, 22:20
House was originally built 1864/5. Covenants and rights of way on original bill of sale from then that came with the deeds from the vendor.

Gertrude the Wombat
24th Mar 2018, 22:52
House was originally built 1864/5. Covenants and rights of way on original bill of sale from then that came with the deeds from the vendor.
Sure. But I'm thinking about conversations along the following lines:

Householder: "Dear council, it says here that I need your permission to do X, please can I have that permission?"

Council: "WTF?"

Householder: "Restrictive covenant from 1948"

Council: "Pull the other one. There's no way we've still got copies. No thanks, I don't want a photocopy of your deeds. Look, this conversation never happened, we DGAS if you do X, OK? No, I'm not putting that in writing. Cheers mate."


(Not me, not Cambridge, not 1948, but such a conversation has taken place.)

G-CPTN
25th Mar 2018, 00:21
I lived in a listed building (which was originally a farmhouse).
When the associated adjacent barns were converted into dwellings, it was decreed that they should have appropriate-styled 'Georgian' windows (the main building was built 1729 - 1730) and, because of the close proximity, must have 'obscured' glass installed on the windows facing the main house.

Some years later, a new tenant installed PVC windows with embedded white false glazing bars - horrendous appearance!

The planning authority denied any knowledge of the restrictions (or the effect on the listed building) - even though the properties are in a conservation area.

HHornet
25th Mar 2018, 15:00
There are four doors to the outside from our house (we've got two semis knocked together), only one of which can usually be opened without a key.

So whenever someone stays the night I take them round the house and show them where the key is for each door, in case of fire. The usual response to this safety briefing is bemusement that I've bothered.

I do the same thing when I have visitors in my house. I think we all make sure our homes are secure, locked and bolted to keep the tea leafs out BUT we also need to be sure that in case of fire we can unlock and exit quickly.

Pontius Navigator
25th Mar 2018, 17:24
I do the same thing when I have visitors in my house. I think we all make sure our homes are secure, locked and bolted to keep the tea leafs out BUT we also need to be sure that in case of fire we can unlock and exit quickly.
Mrs PN had a habit of removing keys from locks and . . .

"Have you looked in my handbag?"

"Where's your handbag?"

"I don't know."

At school in the 50s, it was the norm for the villagers to leave their front door keys in the lock on the outside . You never know, a burglar might leave something useful and it saved the cost of repairs.

G-CPTN
25th Mar 2018, 17:32
My daughter had a fixation with keys from her earliest days - better than any toy for gaining (and keeping) her attention.
We moved into a furnished house, and she immediately went around and collected all the keys from cupboards and doors (for her collection).
It took ages to sort out . . .

Gertrude the Wombat
25th Mar 2018, 19:16
At school in the 50s, it was the norm for the villagers to leave their front door keys in the lock on the outside . You never know, a burglar might leave something useful and it saved the cost of repairs.
When I was a student in the 1970s it was usual for us to leave our room doors unlocked (at least if we were somewhere else in the college). After all, one of our mates might want to borrow a book or something, and there weren't any mobile phones in those days.

Pontius Navigator
25th Mar 2018, 19:55
Likewise in Messes in 70s money and all, but not in the 80s.

Freehills
26th Mar 2018, 05:12
When I was a student in the 1970s it was usual for us to leave our room doors unlocked (at least if we were somewhere else in the college). After all, one of our mates might want to borrow a book or something, and there weren't any mobile phones in those days.

'80s the same. Who had anything worth nicking?

Gertrude the Wombat
26th Mar 2018, 18:59
'80s the same. Who had anything worth nicking?
Wot got nicked was any cheese you left in the fridge in the staircase kitchen. Which had no lock in the first place.

(Just cheese, nothing else. Across the entire college. Which we thought was right weird.)