Question: We bought a house last year in a conservation area. We have received a letter from the council informing us that two windows and our front door are in breach of planning. The seller did the work two years ago. Our conveyancer knew the property was in a conservation area but says the seller confirmed in the Home Information Pack that he had checked with the council and there were no restrictions. Our conveyancer made no further enquiries. The council tells me that no permission was given and the seller should have made a planning application.
© Malcolm Willett (www.willett-ink.co.uk)
Quotes indicate remedial works will cost £12,000. The seller and my conveyancer are now being evasive. Any suggestions?
Answer: Whether the information given by the seller was in the HIP or in replies to enquiries from your conveyancer, the seller must disclose information that is accurate and must not give misleading information. In my view, your conveyancer should have obtained written confirmation from the council that planning permission had not been needed, as your conveyancer knew the property was in a conservation area.
Additional planning controls apply in conservation areas, and planning permission is required for certain external works that would not normally be needed elsewhere. I suggest that you ask your conveyancer to consider whether there was a misrepresentation by the seller and also why your conveyancer did not look into the planning more thoroughly.
If your conveyancer continues to be evasive you should seek advice from a solicitor in a reputable law firm in connection with a claim for negligence and/or misrepresentation. Instead of carrying out remedial works, you may wish to apply for conservation consent, which can be granted retrospectively.
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Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors www.ttuk.com.