Buying a house - loft conversion

Hi,
I'm currently considering purchasing a bungalow which has had a loft conversion to add a bedroom.
A picture of the "new" bedroom can be seen via the rightmove website:
http://media.rightmove.co.uk/1k/860/860_23686_IMG_05.jpg
Now, the estate agent is describing this not as a bedroom but as a "bonus room", as they are not sure if building regs/pp were gained for the conversion. Unfortunately the owner of the property is recently deceased, so concrete information is thin on the ground.
Judging by the state of the rest of the property/gardens, I don't get the impression that the owner would have got a bodge job done in order to save money - everything looks very well maintained - so I'm assuming it's structuarally OK.

the hall way and lead directly to the front door on the ground floor) enter the room directly without a door. As far as I understand, in the current regulations this is OK for a bungalow? Also there are two windows offering a means of escape from fire.
So, I'm wondering which particular building regs this may fall foul of? And what implication has this to a purchase. Would I have problems getting a mortgage if it's not compliant?
Are there any ways round this other than the vendors doing necessary work to make compliant? This could be tricky as the owner has died! I believe his daughter is executor and handling the sale. They may not have finances to do necessary alterations - I'd be willing to go for a price reduction instead and do the work myself, if the lack of permissions don't cause a legal problem with the sale.
Of course I know a newsgroup is not the best place for a defnitive answer on this - but I'm hoping someone might have some experience of similar problems. Any suggestions which professionals I could call (at the smallest cost to me!) to come and have a look to give me a defnitive answer?
TIA for any help advice
Paul.
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contains these words:

If the windows are the roof window and the visible one in the gable end then the window sills would appear from the photo to be too high to qualify as escape windows. I can't remember the exact figure but we had to reduce a 'normal' window sill height by half an inch to comply and that gable end window seems to have a rather high sill.
--
Roger Chapman

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Roger wrote:

Not something you'd want to saddle yourself with until you had settled in and wanted to start DIY-ing. Which may be why the estate pirates used understatement rather than bigging it up.
Unless there is some sort of platform under it or the new owner gets one put there or a ladder? (Not sure.) If there is no such provision, the conversion obviously dates from the good old days.
The rood looks sound. I had visions of the bungalow being a botched job of removing most of the safety factors and much else from trusses but if it is a "warm roof" the previous owner may have had that put on appropriate rafters. Will have needed to at least.
That will be in the surveyor's report/estate agent blurb. So should be in the surveyor's report you get too. Bungalows dating from the 70's on, usually had trusses. Older trusses may have needed some improvement, with the owners opting for the conversion.
Likewise if the roof dates from earlier. If the old rafters needed replacing, the same idea may have occurred and that may have been before the days of warm roofs. In that case it may be doubly difficult to tell without going into the material.
I doubt the vendors will want you or anyone removing tiles to see.
Judging from the nice appointing of the situation -to quote some estate pirate tongue, the place looks good. Very good.
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Weatherlawyer wrote:

Remember the building can only be built to he regulations at the time of build..
Get indemnity instance and buy it.
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You need to make sure that it will in fact be possible to get what is known as a "certificate of lawful use" which should be possible provided the work was done at least four years ago. This de facto retrospective planning permission which you have to pay a fee for. As for building regulations there might not be a problem now but there may well be in the future. In any case it would be common sense to ensure that the fire regulations items are up to current standards. The vendor is going to having problems if both are not sorted so a reduction in price would be in order. This should cover the cost of ALL the work and permissions, plus what might be called a "buggeration factor" because you would have to get the work done. Make sure you add something for contingencies as well.
Peter Crosland
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Peter Crosland wrote:

Surely if the work was done to an agreed standard years ago then there is no requirement to bring it up to todays standards? There is huge housing stock that would not meet todays standards in terms of insulation factors, escape windows, height of electrical sockets, disability access. These are sold with no problems. I seem to recall that one of the standard questions asked is if any alterations have been carried out in the last 4 years. If this is answered no then there is no need for further checks? If the buyer is angling for a reduction on the sale price then it may be an advantage to prove that some of the work was done in the last 4 years but then it may complicate the mortgage. Why not just offer what you want to pay for the house in its current state and if successful model it to suit your requirements? Legin
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legin wrote:

You did not quote my entire post and have missed the points being made.

There are two issues. First is the question of the need for planning approval and the second is the question of building regulations. As a result of a fairly recent court case which a solicitor, or his insurers, had to pay over 60,000 in damages and costs because a vendor had not got the required permissions. As a result buyer's solicitors now ask vendors to confirm in writing that all necessary permissions have been obtained. As far as a breach of building regulations are concerned these cannot normally be enfiorced after a year. What I was saying is that it might be advisable to bring the work up to current specifications for ones own peace of mind particularly as far as fire safety is concerned.

Whilst the planning authority cannot take enforcement action after four years in most cases this does not mean that the developement was legal. As I said before this can be regularlised by a certificate of lawful developement that has to be applied for to the plannign authority. If they are convinced that the certificate should be issued they will do so. A fee is payable for this. Without a certificate the buyer cannot be sure that they will not have to make expensive changes in the future.

See above
Peter Crosland
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Peter Crosland wrote

If the planning authority cannot take enforcement action after 4 years then why do you need to apply for permissions or certificates.This has always intrigued me. I often wondered that if you managed to build a house/ chalet in a real private area that no one knew about and say 5 years later the council got wind, what could they do? Legin
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legin wrote:

Quite simple. Unless, and until, there is a "certifcate of lawful use" there is no proof that the planning authority cannot take action. There are circumstances where they have unlimiuted time to take enforcement. The potential buyer would be very foolish to proceed without proof. As the OP said the previous owner is dead so at the moment all the potential buyer has is hearsay.
Peter Crosland
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legin wrote:

There is if you want retrospective Building Regulations Approval on the extension.

Because if you can't get a mortgage on it, you can't buy it, and if future buyers can't get a mortgage on it it will be very hard to sell it.
Owain
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On Sun, 05 Nov 2006 18:28:34 +0000, a particular chimpanzee named
produced:

A Regularisation certificate can be issued if the work complies with the requirements that were in force at the time the work was originally carried out.
--
Hugo Nebula
"If no-one on the internet wants a piece of this,
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Additionally, check for any covenants attached to the property; planning permission _might_ have only been granted for bungalows to be erected and exclude two-storey 'heridaments' ... 'as they say'.
--

Brian



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Brian Sharrock wrote:

Which could be a right pain because, even if the bungalow is non-compliant, if it's a good sized plot (in some areas) it can even be worth demolishing and rebuilding new if a bigger or two-storey house is required.
Owain
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Ah yes, often known as a "scraper" plot. These plots are often generous enough to swap the one sprawling bungalow for two conventional houses and still have some garden.
Christian.
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Christian McArdle wrote:

Hadn't thought of building *two* houses on it, but even better! <money,money,money>
And can sometimes be more appealing to planners because an extra dwelling is created.
Owain
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All the rage round here. A friend has just conspired with a neighbour so that they could use a little land separating their bungalows as a driveway to four two storey houses built in their previously huge gardens, splitting the proceeds. They didn't even have to move or demolish their own homes.
Christian.
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snipped-for-privacy@pmburton.clara.co.uk wrote:
With this sort of question the normal disclaimers need to apply... IANAL, and don't know the specifics of this house. Having said that I have built a loft conversion of my own and do know what regs would apply.

OK, first thing is that Planing Permission (PP) is unlikely to have been required. The conversion does not appear to have altered the front aspect of the roof (other than perhaps the roof windows which don't count). So unless the proeprty is listed or in a conservation area I would not be worried about PP.
It would still need to comply with building regs.

On that scale of work, the added cost of getting building regs approval and a completion certificate is pretty small.

Another point to realise, is that the enhanced provisions in the building regs (see approved document B1 section 2.17 on) that require extra fire proofing measures etc in a loft conversion, kick in when you go above two stories. So for a bungalow conversion many (like addition of mains powered interlinked smoke detectors on each floor, 20min fire doors onto new habitable rooms, self closers addded to any doors to habitable rooms that open onto the escape route, 30min fire protection to the second first floor ceiling, and means of independant fire escape) would not apply in this case. POsitioning of the roof windows also does not matter here because first storey escape routes count as "self escape" routes anyway (i.e. there is no need for a ladder to effect escape)
(no problem if it has some of these obviously - but not a requirement of building regs)

The regs they would need to follow would cover the structural strength of the new floor (you should be able to gusitimate this simply by walking up the stairs and assessing the thickness of the floor).
You would need adequate insulation levels provided (again looking at window reveals by the roof window, there appears to be adequate thickness to the roof - so chances are there is enough insulation in there).
New windows would need to have a minimum sill height to prevent children falling out etc (which they picture shows they meet easily).
The building inspector would have also wanted to see that the original roof superstructure was modified where required in a suitable way (i.e. they did not go hacking pulins out without providing replacement support). On this latter point you can see from the layout with two dwarf walls at either side that this bit was also done ok.
> Would I have problems

Probably not. As long as the valuation the lender gets indicates they can get their money back should you default then they will be happy.

If the work was done years ago then the building regs aspect would not be retrospectively enforceable anyway IIUC.
> I

You will have to be guided by your solicitor as to what regulatory problems lack of paperwork is going ot cause. The bottom line is however, *you* are instructing your solicitor, so if *you* want the place, buy it.

If you want peace of mind regarding the construction you could consult a structural engineer to get a report done - personally I would not bother if the fllor looks thick enough.
You could contact the local building control department of the council - you never know, they may even remember doing the inspection work at the property. They would also be able to confirm what regs would and would not apply.
In summary, from what I can see, and if I could get some indication the floor joists are deep enough (which would be a simple as a quick look and a quick bounce in the middle of the loft), I would be happy to buy it.
--
Cheers,

John.

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John Rumm wrote:

Oh, and also there needs to be at least 1.9m headroom over at least part of the new stairs.
--
Cheers,

John.

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Many thanks to all for the variety of useful and informative replies - especially John - lots of useful advice there.
When you say "at least part" of the new stairs - I assume that can be midway up the stairs - as you can see from the picture, there probably isn't 1.9m headroom at the top of the stairs, due to the low roof at the side, but half-way up there is way-more than 1.9m, so should be OK there.
If I were to ask the Building regs. people to come in and give a certificate of lawful use (or whatever paperwork is required) and they throw up some expensive problem to fix (like the floor is not supported properly or the roof has been seriously messed around with), am I up shit creek then? If I did nothing following this (ie. couldn't afford a major rebuild) would I be liable for prosecution if I carried on using the room?
I guess I should be asking the vendors to apply for the certificate - sounds like any potential buyer would be wanting this unless they're willing to take a risk!
Thanks again all.
Cheers
Paul.
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snipped-for-privacy@pmburton.clara.co.uk wrote:

No, by part I mean it would be acceptable to have (for example) a sloping ceiling over the stairs such that the left hand side was 1.8m say, and the centre and right hand side were 1.9m or more.
http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/uploads/br/BR_PDF_ADK_1998.pdf
See section 1.10

Well the obvious thing to do would be to ask them before buying. It may work out as simple as them saying that they remember doing that one and can furnish copies of the paperwork if required.

You can also ask them to take out an indemnity insurance policy document to cover the risk. This is actually not that expensive (from tehir point of view) and is often done in cases like this. It is a low risk proposition for the insurers since if it has been standing for a few years without obvious problems then chances of a claim being made are minimal.
--
Cheers,

John.

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