Loft conversions are often the best way to gain extra space at a good price. But failure to acquire the right certificates can send costs through the roof, warns Sharon Lerry from the residential conveyancing team at law firm mfg Solicitors.
Far from an attic filled with spider webs and dusty Christmas decorations, a loft conversion can provide vital space, particularly if the family home is becoming a crowded nest.
But home buyers need to make sure they have seen all the right documentation, or they risk making a costly mistake. Building regulations and planning permission all play their part and if the certificates are not present it can render buildings insurance invalid.
Anyone buying a home with a loft conversion should ask the estate agent whether it has a Building Regulations Completion Certificate and for an approximate date of conversion. But don’t leave it there. Estate agents will rely on what they are told by the seller. So a savvy buyer must get their conveyancer to be completely on the ball too.
If the vendor cannot provide the certificate, all is not lost. The buyer needs a Structural Survey to make sure the conversion complied with the relevant regulations at the time it was carried out. If it does not, then it can cost thousands of pounds to make the room legally habitable in order to obtain a Certificate of Regularisation through a local authority. Some may even have to apply for full Building Regulations approval.
In one recent case here in the Midlands a seller was forced to make a £25,000 upgrade to make sure their loft conversion ticked all the boxes. A costly mistake if people don’t do things by the book and take legal shortcuts. That is just one of many examples.
And legally habitable it must be. If it is not, the owner runs the risk of their buildings insurance becoming invalid – meaning no pay out in the event of an injury or death. The certificate is also crucial as it confirms that the correct means of escape in the event of a fire has been put in place.
Some conveyancers will accept a special indemnity insurance if there is no certificate. However, that only covers the owner against any enforcement action a local authority may take. It doesn’t cover the potential drop in the house’s value that comes from having no evidence that the room is legally habitable, or the cost to bring the conversion up to the correct standards.
It’s tempting to say this is a case of ‘buyer beware’ but it is more than that. Estate agents need to be careful too and make sure the seller has the correct certificates. Then again, they are not the ones who have to live there.
A Building Regulations Completion Certificate, or a Certificate of Regularisation, is the best way to ensure a conversion ticks all the boxes and is safe to use as a bedroom, not just a lofty aspiration.
For further information readers can contact Sharon Lerry firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0845 55 55 321