Buying a Property with an old loft conversion – do I need to worry about Planning Permission or Building Control?

When purchasing a property, it is important that the necessary planning permissions and building regulation consents are in place for works that have been undertaken.

Do all loft conversions need Planning Permission?

Most loft conversions do not require Planning Permission as they often come within the’ Permitted Development’ provisions, which allow homeowners to improve and extend their homes without applying for Planning Permission. There are exceptions to this, however, where Planning Permission is required such as where you extend or alter the roof space/height and it exceeds certain limits and conditions. It is therefore important to check whether the works came within Permitted Development where Planning Permission would not have been required.

Do all loft conversions need Building Regulation Consent?

In relation to Building Regulation Consent, this is generally required to convert a loft or attic into a ‘liveable space’. The date the loft conversion was carried out may be relevant. This is because Completion Certificates were generally not introduced until the late-1980s and also some council records may not extend this far back. More recent works, the owner carrying out the works would have been required to obtain Building Regulations approval for the conversion.

The situation is more complicated where a previous owner and not the Seller carried out the loft conversion, they have no information on the works carried out.

What happens if no Building Regulation Consent was obtained?

If Building Regulation Consent was needed but not obtained, here are a number of options open for a Buyer:

  • if the works were carried out after October 1985 it is possible to ask the Seller to obtain a ‘Regularisation Certificate ‘from the Local Authority. This is effectively retrospective consent for work already carried out to ascertain if there is anything that is non-compliant with the building work; or
  • ask the Seller to provide a Building Regulation Indemnity Insurance Policy at their own cost. An indemnity policy however does not cover the standard of work carried out or the cost of any repairs or remedial works required, which the Buyer would be responsible for; or
  • use the loft room for storage only and not as a habitable space.

The Local Authority can make an application to the High Court for an injunction to require the alteration or removal of work carried out and there is no time limit in relation to this it is therefore important to consider all the above factors and to obtain guidance from a Surveyor as well as a Conveyancer who will be able to advise you in more detail.

Our experienced and friendly residential conveyancing team will be happy to assist you with a purchase or general advice in relation to the above.

Rachel Butterfield