Legal Q&A: if a flat I want to buy has been altered without building regulations consent, what should I do?

How can I find out if there have been any alterations made to a flat I want to buy and why is it important to do so? 

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Question: I want to buy a flat that I think has been altered since it was built. Possibly a couple of walls have been knocked down to make the kitchen and dining room into one and enlarge the bathroom. The seller and estate agent were very cagey and unhelpful when I asked about this. How can I find out if the flat has been altered? And what happens if it has been? I reckon the flat was built about 15 years ago.

Answer: Review the original lease and the lease plan. Compare the current layout of the flat and the original lease plan to see if they differ. 

If you make an offer for the flat which is accepted, the seller’s solicitor will send your solicitor a contract pack that should include a Property Information Form completed by the seller and Leasehold Property Enquiries completed by the landlord or their managing agent.

In the Property Information Form, the seller should disclose any building works to the property and in the Leasehold Property Enquiries the landlord or managing agent should disclose if consent has been given to alterations or additions to the property.

If walls have been knocked down and no consent given, the seller should be asked to obtain, at their expense, retrospective consent from the landlord for those alterations.

Check that building regulations approval was obtained. If it was not, the seller may offer an indemnity policy for lack of consent. 

Do remember that building regulations set standards for design and construction to ensure the safety of people using buildings. An indemnity policy will not provide any assurance regarding safety.

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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