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The following text c There may be hidden perils lurking in your dream home if the previous owner fancied himself as a DIY enthusiast, warns Saul Brookfield
Most people who have climbed any way up the property ladder will be familiar with the potential nightmare of buying a house from a DIY enthusiast. The collapsing kitchen units, the idiosyncratic rewiring upstairs, the shower that turns cold whenever someone opens the fridge - they are all examples of the well-meaning but bungling amateur at work, men - invariably men - who have marched into their local branch of B&Q with a dangerous gleam in their eyes.
As he embarks on a three-month sentence in jail, Sylvester Nseowo, of Telford in Shropshire, might want to ponder the full extent of his passion for home improvement. Last week Mr Nseowo was imprisoned by Stafford Crown Court for refusing to pull down an illegal extension that he added to his five-bedroom house. Not only did he fail to gain any planning permission for the ramshackle construction but, with its lack of solid foundations and dangerously askew roof, it was deemed to be a threat to other houses on the leafy, modern estate.
In the words of one of Mr Nseowo's neighbours: "He didn't seem to have any knowledge of the building trade. He did not even know what a spirit level was for."
This might have been an extreme case, but estate agents up and down Britain are regularly having to face up to the grim reality of wobbly loft conversions, bungled bathrooms and sometimes even worse.
Chris Husson-Martin, of FPD Savills' Southampton office, once had a property on his books where the owner had decided to add a sauna - in the main bedroom. "It was horrific," he says, "the condensation, the mould - it reeked like a school shower block. I took some people round and he tried to insist that it was en-suite. I gently had to point out that en-suite meant it would be off the bedroom. He had put it in thinking that it would increase the value of the property. Of course, it all had to be ripped out before we had any hope of selling the place."
Mr Husson-Martin also remembers going round to see a detached 1930s house with a suspiciously large living-room. "One Sunday, almost on a whim, the owners just decided to knock through from the lounge to the dining-room. They were quite proud of what they had done but, unfortunately, they didn't realise they were demolishing a supporting wall. The ceiling was sagging badly and the whole structure of the entire house had been put under stress. It cost 20,000 to fix."
Having a friend who claims to be a dab hand at DIY can almost be as much of a hazard, as Tim Le Blanc-Smith, of John D Wood's Chelsea branch, recalls: "A couple went on holiday, having instructed their friend to do some work in their bathroom. The main job was the fitting of a bidet, and they drew an arrow on the tiles four feet high, level with the exact position they wanted it.
"Imagine their faces when they returned - the bidet was beautifully fitted, sadly not on the ground, but 4ft off the floor where the arrow had been. He had attached it to the wall. I always like to think they might have kept it as a souvenir."
David Fenton, of Strutt & Parker in Chelmsford, has also encountered the extremes to which the mania to improve your property can lead. "One quite famous case on my patch was an African lady who built a mud hut in her garden in Dagenham," he recalls. "It was quite big, and had no planning permission, and in the end she was forced to pull it down on the grounds of environmental health."
Mr Fenton was also called upon to perform a rescue act for a homeowner in Suffolk who had blithely decided to add a conservatory and large swimming pool to his Grade II-listed property. "He wanted to sell the house and move to France but was haunted by his past mistakes. There was no way this rather large extension had planning permission as the potential purchasers' solicitors quickly discovered. We finally managed to get it approved retrospectively but it ruffled a few feathers at the local council. I think the conservation officer resigned in protest."
But then the perils of buying a house from an enterprising owner with scant regard for planning regulations don't just reveal themselves when the plumbing packs up 18 months after you have exchanged contracts. Tim Sherston, of Dreweatt Neate in Newbury, remembers one such heart-stopping moment.
"The sale of a Grade I-listed building was just about to be completed," he says, "when the vendor owned up that the two rather valuable 17th-century paintings that came with the house and were covered by the conservation order were, in fact, copies. He had sold the originals to make some money. If the sale had proceeded, the buyer, as owner of the property, would have been faced with a large fine or even jail. Understandably, he backed out."
Eventually, a property lawyer, eyeing a bargain, bought the house for a reduced price and used all his professional skills to smooth over the breach of the conservation order through the courts.
The vendor hadn't acted maliciously, insists Mr Sherston, "he just couldn't believe he was breaking any laws". Unfortunately, as with so many other people who think that the title deeds give them carte blanche to do exactly what they want with their house, he was.
opied from the Telgraph for which thanks are given.
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wrote:

Mr X of New Malden, in my BCO days, did get Building Regs permission for his extension. But the blockwork walls were built of assorted blocks salvaged from local skips and when it got to the flat roof inspection one looked up and saw vinyl tiles, this chipboard decking having once been a kitchen floor. As to the roof felt it was new, but the 'workmanship' was a disaster. When I said so to Mrs X (Mr being at work) she all but attacked me, saying "he's been out there with his torch working on that roof for three weeks and I'm not having you criticising it". Not quite having the resources of Telford BC we served a notice on the owner requiring him to rectify the defective work: we were not in a position to take this further, but the fact that it was recorded on the Land Charges would have put any buyer on notice. Mrs X is probably still very proud of her husband's DIY skills.
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Tony Bryer SDA UK 'Software to build on' http://www.sda.co.uk
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Can you explain why either of these are a problem? Not critisising just curious!
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L Reid wrote:

How do you then get the socket off the tiled wall then?
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L Reid wrote:

Tileing AND grouting is sure sign of a lack of foresight. Surface mount sockets (which look ugly) are nearly always avoidable on P/board installations, with some planning.
Steve
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Still don't get the tiling point. Is it 'cos they should remove the sockets then tile behind them?
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Steve wrote:

sides. Mustn't tempt fate ;-(
Chris
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Chris J Dixon Nottingham UK
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Its reassuring to know that I'm not the only one to buy a house from the DIYer from hell. I can't even start to list the cock ups in our house, electricity consumer unit hanging off the wall by the cables, plumbing done by the first 10 year old that walked past and floors in the extension the Edmund Hillary would have trouble getting up. The next door neighbour who is 89 summed it up by saying they did looked bunch of cowboys (possibly because their van said The Lone Ranger and Co). It would be funny but the amount of walls these guys took out is frightening one example is the main supporting beam for the gable is (was) sitting on half a brick,that is 2 1/4 inches. I could go on but that would stop me from my search of the t--t and the builders (haha) that did this to my home and ripping his (their ) b----cks off. Rob PS I bet I can beat any stories about diy cock ups

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Kind of begs the question why did you buy the place doesn't it?! The fact that you are after the builders' nuts suggests all this stuff came as a surprise to you after purchase - didn't you get a survey done?
David
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Peter Crosland wrote in message ...

having to accept responsibility for anything. The buck always stops somewhere else.
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On Sat, 30 Aug 2003 12:09:07 +0100, "stuart noble"

Last time I bought a house it was a mortgage repo and sitting empty. At some point during the buying process, after our offer was accepted, the place was burgled and the gas boiler stolen.
Owing to an insurance cock-up by the estate agents handling the sale, they weren't covered for this and ended up giving us some not inconsiderable dosh to replace the boiler and repair the back door. Money that was clearly coming out of their _own_ pockets - you could hear them squealing 8-)
OTOH, they sold us a "freehold" property that turned out to be leasehold, and our solicitor didn't notice (!).
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stuart noble wrote:

They do and have been made to pay considerable sums where they have clearly misled the buyer. Not usually about diy work though. A recent case was someone was told their flat garden was exclusive and after they moved in they found it was shared by the upstairs flat. I believe agent had to cough up 20k+.
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bungalow in a village miles from anywhere where the constant supply of electricity is a wonder! Gas, no chance.
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JWL wrote:

her garden. Seriously though, how naive can people get. Estate agents are generally reckoned to be low forms of life, somewhat at the level of pond slime, so why do buyers believe what they say and not check the documentation?
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