Question: I have seen a property I like but the agent has warned me that it does not have building regulation approval for alterations that have been done, and two sales have fallen through already. He says if these regulations are going to be an issue for me, he doesn't want to waste my time. Should I be worried?
© Merrily Harpur
Answer: Building regulations lay down the minimum standards buildings should satisfy and are concerned with things like health and safety and conserving energy.
Approval is needed for most building works, such as extensions, installing cavity wall insulation, underpinning a building, pulling down or putting up internal walls and installing or making major alterations to bathrooms or waste disposal systems.
Find out was done that didn't get approval. Sometimes sellers' solicitors will suggest an indemnity insurance policy to cover lack of building regulation approval, but you should also be aware of safety issues.
For example, if a new loft does not have approval, is that because it wasn't applied for, or because it would never meet safety standards with regard to fire? In such a case, rather than accepting indemnity insurance, ask the seller to apply to the local council for a regularisation certificate.
The property may not be selling because the seller is refusing to regularise the building regulation problem or indeed cannot afford to do so if, say, getting approval would require expensive extra work. Consult a surveyor to advise you if you are at all concerned.
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Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP www.thrings.com.