Should I Buy a House with a Loft Conversion Without Building Regs?
Buying a house with a loft conversion that does not have building regulations approval can be a major issue for several reasons. All of which we will discuss in this article.
There are 2 scenarios:
An unauthorised loft conversion may have been carried out, meaning that at some point the owner of the property has gone ahead and converted the loft with no regard for planning or building regulations.
This is likely to be a non-compliant conversion.
They may have done what they thought was right, however, this type of conversion is very unlikely to comply with current building standards. It may have also required planning approval (depending on what type of conversion was done)
If you decide to buy this type of property, it’s Risky for a number of reasons which we will discuss in this article.
They may have even applied for planning permission.
The property owner may have applied for a building warrant or submitted a building regulations application.
However, in this situation, they would not have obtained a completion certificate.
This may be a slightly less risky purchase but you should be aware that there is still a risk.
- Buying a property with an unregulated loft conversion can lead to potential risks and challenges.
- Mortgage lenders may require retrospective building control approval or building regulations indemnity insurance.
- Cash buyers may choose to purchase without taking any action regarding unauthorised works, but it comes with potential risks and impacts on future saleability.
It is essential to investigate thoroughly, consult with professionals, and consider potential financial and safety implications before making a purchase decision.
Firstly, the property may not be worth the full asking price, especially if the loft conversion includes a bedroom. This is because the conversion may not be considered habitable and cannot be listed as a bedroom. Additionally, mortgage lenders are unlikely to grant a mortgage offer without indemnity insurance, which can make obtaining financing difficult. However, it may still be possible to buy the property if you negotiate a reasonable adjustment to the price and/or obtain insurance.
Sellers often convert lofts into bedrooms to provide additional living space. However, they cannot market the loft conversion as a bedroom if it does not have a building regulations completion certificate.
When buying a house with an unauthorised loft conversion, it can be problematic if you plan to finance the purchase with a mortgage. Mortgage lenders typically carry out a mortgage valuation, but the valuer may not pick up on the lack of building regulations approval for the loft conversion, relying solely on the information provided by the selling estate agent.
Be careful if you think something is not right, remember to do your due diligence!
As a result, the mortgage valuation may overvalue the loft conversion as an additional bedroom. During the legal enquiries stage, it may be discovered that the mortgage valuation is technically inaccurate, leading to potential issues with financing.
If a mortgage lender becomes aware that a buyer intends to purchase a property with an unapproved loft conversion, they may insist on the buyer obtaining retrospective building control approval or building regulations indemnity insurance.
In some cases, the lender may also require a structural engineer to assess the safety of the conversion. It is common for a mortgage lender to rescind their offer and only provide a mortgage offer based on an updated valuation that considers the market price of a property with the legal number of bedrooms and a non-habitable loft conversion.
Cash buyers, on the other hand, may choose to purchase the property without taking any action regarding unauthorised works, as they are legally allowed to do so. However, this means that the new buyer would inherit the same problem when they eventually sell the property.
Additionally, any buildings insurance claimed on the property may be invalidated, and there is a risk of an unsafe building collapse without insurance coverage.
It is worth noting that most loft conversions do not require planning permission as they fall under permitted development rights. however, if the property is a listed building or is within a conservation area, planning approval will be required.
Risks of Buying a House with A non-compliant Loft Conversion
There is no doubt that buying a house with an unauthorised loft conversion can be problematic.
Consider Scenario 1 – This is when a homeowner simply goes ahead and converts the attic space and does not apply for either planning or building regs approval.
It might look fine to you but it’s really difficult to tell what has been done without an intrusive investigation.
What’s the issue here?
Loft conversions require careful design to ensure that they are fully compliant with current building regulations.
Building regulations are constantly changing and the unauthorized conversion is likely to be miles away from what is required.
This covers the following:
- Structural changes
- Ventilation (walls, roof, rooms, and mechanical extract ventilation)
- Fire resistance (including fire doors)
There is a risk that all of the work would need to be redone or it could be reinstated to an attic.
Either way, you will need to apply for building regs approval.
A Structural report would also be required (from a suitably qualified structural engineer)
Is there a lack of supporting evidence for the work that has been carried out?
You will need to thoroughly investigate the status of the loft conversion before making a purchase decision.
Understanding the potential issues associated with an unregulated loft conversion can help buyers negotiate a reasonable adjustment to the price and/or obtain insurance.
Consider Scenario 2 – This is when the property owner obtained building regulations approval but never concluded the matter by obtaining a completion certificate.
This can often be easier to resolve.
However, it is assumed that all of the work was carried out in accordance with building standards.
If the work was carried out a number of years ago, building control may insist that the work is completed to current building standards before a completion certificate would be issued.
it would be wise to speak to the building control department to get their view on this, They may be of the view that work was carried out according to the building warrant at the time and therefore they can issue a completion certificate.
In England and Wales, This process involves applying for retrospective building control approval. It may require a fee and an inspection by a building control officer to ensure the conversion meets the necessary standards.
In Scotland you will need to apply for a ‘Completion Certificate where no building warrant was obtained’, this process used to be called a letter of comfort but was changed in 2005.
Alternatively, buyers can consider obtaining building regulations indemnity insurance to protect themselves in case of any legal issues arising from the unapproved conversion. Your solicitor can advise you on this
Regardless if you find yourself in scenario 1 or 2, ultimately a completion certificate will be required to put this to bed.
If you don’t obtain a completion certificate you may find yourself in the same situation when you come to sell the property.
Far from ideal!
Further, there is a risk of an unsafe building collapse or other issues due to inadequate safety measures. Without proper building regulations, it may be difficult to know if the loft conversion is structurally sound and safe for habitation. This can lead to potential legal issues and costs in the future if there are any accidents or injuries as a result of the unapproved conversion.
“Buying a house with a loft conversion without building regulations approval can present significant challenges. It may result in a lower property value, difficulty obtaining mortgage financing, and potential risks associated with inadequate safety measures.”
Selling a property with an unapproved loft conversion can also be challenging, as it may limit the pool of potential buyers. Prospective buyers may be deterred by the potential risks and costs associated with an unapproved conversion, making it harder to sell the property for the desired price.
Planning Permission and Loft Conversions
It is worth noting that most loft conversions do not require planning permission as they fall under permitted development rights.
However, there are exceptions that require permission, including alterations to the roof height or shape, listed buildings or conservation areas.
It is important to ensure that the loft conversion complies with all relevant planning permission requirements to avoid potential risks and legal issues.
Retrospective planning may be required.
If dormers have been constructed without planning approval it’s not a given that planning will be approved.
In summary, it is important to understand the planning permission requirements for loft conversions when purchasing a property.
Consulting with professionals and obtaining a loft conversion survey can help identify any potential issues and ensure compliance with all necessary regulations. Failure to comply with planning permission and building regulations can result in significant financial and safety risks.
In summary, when considering purchasing a property with a loft conversion that does not have building regulations approval, it is essential to research the status of the conversion thoroughly.
It is advisable to consult with professionals such as surveyors and structural engineers, investigate the potential financial and safety implications, and consider negotiating a reasonable adjustment to the price and obtaining insurance. Ultimately, the decision to buy a property with an unregulated loft conversion should be carefully considered and weighed against the potential risks and benefits.
Q: Should I buy a house with a loft conversion without building Warrant approval?
A: Buying a house with an illegal loft conversion can present challenges, including potential issues with property valuation, mortgage financing, and safety. Investigate the status of the loft conversion and consider the potential risks before making a purchase decision.
Q: What challenges can arise with mortgage financing for a property with an unregulated loft conversion?
A: When trying to secure mortgage financing for a property with an unregulated loft conversion, challenges can arise. Mortgage lenders may require retrospective building control approval or building regulations indemnity insurance, and may rescind their offer if the loft conversion is not legally compliant.
You may also struggle to sell the property.
Q: What are the options for cash buyers considering a property with an unlawful loft conversion?
A: Cash buyers may choose to purchase a property with an unlawful loft conversion without taking any action. However, this means inheriting the same problem when selling the property and facing potential risks such as invalidated insurance claims and safety concerns without insurance coverage.
Q: What are the planning permission requirements for loft conversions?
A: Most loft conversions do not require planning permission as they fall under permitted development rights. However, planning permission may be required if the property is listed or in a conservation area, or if the roof height or shape is altered. Additional information can be obtained from the Government’s Planning Portal.