First time poster, did a quick search but could not find anything
I'm considering buying a property advertised as 2 bed + attic. However,
I have concerns:
~The property has a sign on the front stating "1899" and is the middle
of a 3 house terrace.
~The property has stairs (not a ladder) situated between the front and
back bedrooms heading to the attic from the first floor landing.
Presumably through where the airing cupboard used to be.
~The attic has a single velux window, has been boarded, a radiator
installed, a light and electric power.
~Attic space is advertised as being 17'5'' x 14'0''
~The doors leading off of stairs/landings are not fire doors and there
are no smoke detectors in the attic.
Have spoken to the agent the current owners have lived there 12 years
and the work was conducted prior to them. The do not have any
certificates for any works done or checks made. They claim they had no
problems obtaining a mortgage - but then I don't know the type of level
of survey the had.
I am quite keen on this property but the lack of building control
regs/certificates worry me quite a bit.
Would the fact there's a proper staircase in place suggest to the
building officer it's not being used as "storage" and is in transition
to a habitable area - meaning taking the stairs out until everything is
Does the position of the stair (not above the stairs from ground to
first floor, but at right angles to these) make a difference.
The velux window seams a bit high to me (think i read it needs to be
600mm -1100mm) but i think to lower it might be a problem as there's a
pearl beam just below it.
-If fire proofing ceilings/walls is required would adding a second layer
of plasterboard/ceiling boards to the surfaces suffice or is it more
involved than that?
What would be the correct approach to take, I had considered talking to
building control office for tameside but i don't want to put any future
building insurance at risk or cause indirect problems for the current
Should I walk away from a property like this?
Sorry if this is covered elsewhere, I did search but not sure if I used
the correct terms.
Any help that can be given on this would be greatly appreciated.
Hi. Pull up a cat, mind the angle grinder, help yourself to some IPA.
Sounds like a standard three/four-floor terraced house. The dog-leg
staircase and floored attic room was built with the house, a bit
similar to this:
four floors if you count the cellar/basement.
It's a "purlin". The velux window will be a replacement for a
glazed skylight - basically, a wooden window. Depending on where
the purlin is, the only practical place for the window will have
been either immidiately above the purlin, or immediately below
the purlin. If below the purline the usual method was to have a
small alcove into the eves space under the window.
Sounds like a standard late-Victorian terraced house, doesn't
sound like there's anything abnormal about it. Make sure you
get a survey, make sure there are access hatches into the
eves spaces so the insides can be examined.
With the purlins that high it looks like it was built like that.
If it had been built as non-habitable roof space they wouldn't
have bothered putting the purlin high enough for a ceiling. It
looks identical to my Mum's house in Sheffield. If you look inside
the eves space I expect you'll find a second purlin just behind
the wall aligned with the other side of the chimney breast.
The oddity is the front-back main staircase and the crosswards
attic staircase. Conventionally the main staircase runs across
the house between the fron room and the back room, and the attic
staircase runs from the landing forwards above the front
bedroom cupboard. However, I have seen houses of your layout,
not many in Sheffield, but they do exist.
It looks like your kitchen is a later add-on, which supports
the alternative staircase arrangement - it's only on houses
with no offshot kitchen that I've seen the front-back
I expect that your bathroom window is non-original and doesn't
match the other windows. I expect if you look carefully at
the landing you'll find evidence that the whole of the back
was a single bedroom with the door between the stair newel
post and the attic doorway. That will be further evidence
that it was built that way.
I'd have no problem buying it in conjunction with a
If its been there that long then there is not much to worry about as
such from a regulatory point of view.
Loft conversions (of that time) were unlikely to need planning consent,
but would have come under building control if they were adding
"habitable" space such as a bedroom. However enforcement powers for the
LABC only extend for a couple of years anyway. So, as far as I am aware,
there is no possibility of anyone popping up and demanding changes now
(unless its a death trap posing immediate danger to its neighbours).
Perhaps Hugo could fill in more on this?
There is then the question of whether the work is structurally safe, and
sound. The soundness you can probably take as ok since its obviously
been there for some time and not fallen down. If you carried on using it
in the same way, then chances are it won't all of a sudden now after all
You may however find that its not to an adequate safety standard with
respect to escape from fire, but that would only have significance if
you were planning on using it as bedroom space.
at this stage its a moot point, since its well beyond the point anyone
could take any action to correct problems.
The rules for loft conversions have changed somewhat recently. There was
a time that if you had habitable space and the house was now in effect
three stories, then you needed an escape window. This meant that a velux
style window would need to be a top opening one, and and also n need to
be within 1.7m of the eves of the roof.
However the rules changed a few years ago, and now there is no
requirement for escape windows, but all the doors that open onto the
primary escape route must be fire doors.
Again, it depends on what you are doing and why as well as what is
already there. Assuming you are planning on using the attic as a
bedroom, and its a third storey, and there is currently inadequate
protection, then yes, a second layer of PB would do it. As would
stuffing the floor void with a fire resistant insulation.
That is what I did on mine to "make sure":
Personally it would not worry me - but it depends on how you are going
to use the space. If its just for storage then there is nothing to worry
about. If you want to use it as habitable space, then it would be worth
investigating how the conversion has been done, and what work to do to
bring it up to an acceptable standard should it not already be ok.
After this period of time, there is no need to worry about the
paperworks side at all.
(Our current place had conversion work done on the loft - it was under
the auspices of the LABC department, but there was never a completion
certificate issued for it. It did not cause any problems as it was
historical by then)
Not if you like the place and the price is right.
By all means have a look about my loft conversion site - it will give
you some idea of what one needs to do to do a completely legit job.
However keep in mind the rules have changed since I did mine, so some
things would be different if doing today (mostly means of escape and
"One of the usual observations about running any large project is true
of this one. That being, that doing 90% of the work takes 90% of the
time. Doing the remaining 10% of the work takes the other 90% of the
Apart from the mistripe, tell me about it.
I've found it's more like 90% work = 50% time, remaining 10% = 50%.
[Default] On Tue, 05 Jun 2012 15:15:03 +0100, a certain chimpanzee,
Any building that is imminently dangerous to people in and around the
building can be acted upon by the LA. "Imminently dangerous" in this
context would be a roof about to collapse because someone has taken
away all the structural members, a gable wall swaying in the breeze,
someone driving a bus through your living room, etc. Below that is
'potential dangerous'; dodgy chimney stacks, loose slates, etc.
Unauthorised loft conversions that don't cause a danger to anyone but
the people in their own house aren't really actionable.
There used to be a power in the Building Act where an inadequate means
of escape in a rented building over 3 storeys could be adressed, but
IIRC that section has been removed by some other legislation. Housing
could always act if a property is rented and is unfit for habitation.
Again, that would have to be pretty bad for most authorities to act.
"If no-one on the internet wants a piece of this,
[Default] On Mon, 4 Jun 2012 22:15:05 +0000, a certain chimpanzee,
What you can do depends to some extent on when the work was carried
Does it look like the house was built as a three storey? Have a look
along the road; are there others with similar rooflights? Do the
fixtures look original? If yes, then it's likely that the floor
structure will be no worse than the floors below. If no, then was the
work carried out before 1985? If so, then it can't be retrospectively
approved. If it were converted after 1985, then a Regularisation
Certificate can be applied for.
The use of the space is what's important, not how you access it. I've
had many a discussion with a householder who has said that their room
in the roof that has plastered walls, laminate flooring, power
sockets, etc., isn't a habitable room, "because we only have a
drop-down ladder to it". What they have is a room in the roof with an
inadequate means of access and escape.
Assuming it is an unauthorised conversion, the issues with what you
a) structural - was a proper floor installed and was any support for
the roof adversely affected by a conversion?
b) is there insulation and proper ventilation to the underside of the
From your description it's unlikely that the means of escape can't be
surmounted. If the stairs at ground floor aren't open plan, then the
existing doors could be replaced with fire doors, and a detection
Talk to Building Control. They'll know if it's been a legitimate
conversion. It's very unlikely that they would cause problems for the
existing owners if the work has been carried so long ago, and as for
insurance; you're really into conspiracy theory territory if you
imagine that Building Control have access to any insurance database-
most BCs don't have access to their Planning's database!
Throw it back to your seller. Get them to apply for a Regularisation
Certificate (subject to the dates above). Even if it can't be fully
approved, at least you would have an idea of what's wrong.
"If no-one on the internet wants a piece of this,
Ha - I've been to see a house where there was a ladder to a "loft
conversion" and the bed was still there! To be fair the bloke did not claim
it was a bedroom on paper and said they'd strengthened the floor for a bit
of extra space, but had not completed the full range of required conversion
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