Is indemnity insurance enough protection against not having completion certificates for an extension?

We are buying a house from a chap who did not receive a final completion certificate for extensions to the property. How does indemnity insurance work - and what could go wrong?

Question: We are buying a house from a chap who recently added a loft and rear extension. He sought planning permission but did not receive a final completion certificate. He has agreed to pay for indemnity insurance and our solicitor says this might be acceptable. How would that work in practice — and what could go wrong? 

Answer: I assume planning consent was granted, and that your concern is the lack of a building regulations completion certificate for each project. As the work was recent, the seller may not be able to obtain indemnity insurance cover in any event.

Find out when the work was done, and whether he applied for building regulations consent but just did not get the works signed off by the building inspector — in which case completion certificates would not have been issued — or if the seller tried and failed to get the works signed off. If the works were not done properly they would not have been signed off and certificates would not have been issued.

You need to know if the alterations were done properly and safely, and in accordance with the regulations — for example, whether there is a safe means of escape from the loft in case of a fire, and if the internal walls, joists and beams are sufficiently load bearing. Accepting a policy provided by the seller for lack of building regulations consent will not help you to satisfy yourself in this regard. And if there no completion certificates, has the property been valued accurately? For instance, is the loft only really a storage room, and not suitable for living in?
 

WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM? 
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. 

We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a partner in the residential property, farms and estates team at Withy King LLP (www.withyking.co.uk).

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.


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