Loft conversion: what do if the paperwork is missing

Sarah SargentSarah Sargent
Sarah Sargent
Partner and head of residential property at Lupton Fawcett Sarah Sargent gives her advice

Q I am buying a property and I believe that the loft has been converted. The works were carried out before the seller bought the property and they have no documentation in respect of this. Should I be concerned?

A Loft conversions require Building Regulation Approval. As part of your standard conveyancing your solicitor will carry out a Local Authority Search. This should reveal if a Completion Certificate has been issued by the Local Authority.

If a Completion Certificate is not available this could indicate that the works either pre-date Completion Certificates (usually mid 1980s) or alternatively that the works have not been carried out with Building Regulation Approval.

At this point you need to consider how you wish to proceed. Firstly, your solicitor will need to inform your mortgage lender so that they can refer the matter to the valuer for their recommendations.

Lack of a Completion Certificate means that the seller cannot provide any evidence that the works have been carried out to the necessary standards and are structurally sound. You should advise your Surveyor immediately of this as this may affect their report. If you have not already had a survey then you should consider appointing your own RICS surveyor to inspect the works on your behalf.

The seller may offer Building Regulation Indemnity Insurance as an alternative to providing a Completion Certificate. You should ensure that you read the policy carefully and check to see exactly what is covered by the policy. Many only cover you in the event that the Local Authority take enforcement action for lack of Building Regulation Approval, they do not cover you against defective workmanship.

You may request that the seller applies to the Council for a Regularisation Certificate. This will confirm, as far as possible, that the building standards appropriate at the time when the building works were undertaken were met, although it is not conclusive evidence. It may however be necessary for the Local Authority to “open up” works in order to decide whether or not some remedial work is needed in order for a Certificate to be issued. The seller may not be prepared to allow the disruption of such works

In summary, before proceeding ensure that the property is structurally sound as once you have exchanged contracts you will be liable to rectify any defects, the costs of which could be significant.

Sarah Sargent from Lupton Fawcett can be contacted on 0114 228 3281 or [email protected]