When is a loft room an official extra bedroom?

Our lawyer, Fiona McNulty, answers your questions
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Question: I am buying a property, although contracts have not yet been exchanged. It was advertised as a four-bedroom house but the fourth bedroom is actually a loft room — there are stairs going up to it but it all looks fairly amateurish and would not be classed as a full loft conversion.

My survey and subsequent searches revealed that this “fourth bedroom” has not had building control approval and there is no completion certificate for the work. What effect does this have on the property purchase? Should the estate agent have advertised this as a four-bedroom property, and if not, does this give me reasonable grounds to ask for a reduction in price?

Answer: You have not mentioned whether the seller is using the loft room for accommodation or for some other purpose, such as storage. However, it does sound as though it would have been prudent for the selling agent not to have described it as a fourth bedroom but as an attic room, so there may have been a misrepresentation on their part.

Generally, a fourth bedroom adds value to a property, so it is highly likely that if the selling agent valued the property as a four-bedroom house it has been overpriced, and a reduction would be fair. Establish what you would pay for the house if it had three bedrooms and offer that amount, or reduce your offer to reflect the cost of putting the loft conversion in order so that it satisfies building regulations.

The seller may offer to pay for indemnity insurance to cover the lack of a building regulation completion certificate. However, you should be very cautious of this. Building regulations, or building control, is concerned with the health and safety of persons in and around buildings, so if the loft room has not been built in accordance with the regulations it may be unsafe, and the indemnity policy will not cover any expenses needed to make good any substandard work.

What's your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP (www.thrings.com).

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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