Alterations to properties that do not have Building Regulation approval have the potential to fatally derail the conveyancing process and cause the parties to incur wasted costs if not addressed early.
It’s an area where solicitors, surveyors and agents should work together to try and find a solution which will allow the sale to progress.
The types of alterations that require Building Regulation approval include:
In an ideal world, changes of this type will have been notified to Building Control (or an approved inspector), inspected whilst in progress and a completion certificate issued that can be passed on to the prospective purchaser. Unfortunately, either as a result of cost cutting or ignorance that does not always happen and the matter only comes to light when either a Property Questionnaire is completed by the seller or it is flagged up in the surveyor’s report (Section I – ‘Issues for your Legal Adviser’ in the HBR).
At the time the surveyor inspects he will not know whether the alteration has been approved but even if a return visit were arranged the lack of access generally makes a full inspection impossible. If I were to suggest to an owner that they dig up a section of their patio to establish the depth of the foundations to their rear extension or rip out the boxing in around the steel beam where the structural wall used to be they would tell me where to go.
If it is confirmed that there have been alterations that were never approved there are generally 4 options available to the purchaser:
Unless the buyer is happy to take a view there has to be a willingness on the part of the seller to deal with the issue and that is not always the case – too often the seller’s reaction is to remind everyone that the buyer ‘already got £x off the asking price’ which is less then helpful and ignores the fact that any subsequent buyer will inevitably reach the same stumbling block.