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Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

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  • Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

    I am trying to sell my house in London at the minute, the buyers checked for planning permission for a loft conversion and it appears that there isn't any - this was missed when we bought the house and we know that the work was done at least 10 years ago. We suspect that the work was actually done much longer ago than that, perhaps when permission was not required (as next door has a similar conversion with no record of planning permission either) - how can I find out what the legislation was in the past? Any pointers would be greatly appreciated, I just need a starting point! Any advice on how we could determine exactly when the conversion was done would be great too.
    Many thanks in advance for your help.

  • #2
    Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

    Normally, converting a loft in a house for residential use does not amount to a "material change of use", so planning permission would not be required: the use of the building is, after all, still residential

    However, converting any area (loft, garage, conservatory, etc) to living accommodation does require compliance with the Building Regulations. If there is no record of this, it may be that Building Regulations consent was not obtained, or it may be that the council's records going back 10+ years are not as good as they should be.

    Either way, the legal risk (of enforcement action) can be insured against by buying an inexpensive indemnity insurance policy.

    This will not cover the practical risks, however: difficult to negotiate stairs, inadequate insulation, etc. I would therefore recommend any buyer to check that the physical aspects are satisfactory to them. As the seller, you should only need to be concerned with the legal aspects
    This is based on my experience as a conveyancing solicitor in England, but I do not accept liability for information I give in this forum

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

      I come across this problem quite often. I agree with the other post that a building regulations completion certificate is perhaps going to be more of an issue to a purchaser although the indemnity insurance will help to overcome this. Many valuers will not consider a loft conversion as a habitable room unless there is building regulations.
      Regarding planning this is easier to resolve by applying forva certificate of lawfulness. If you can prove a minimum of 4 years use as a loft conversion the council Lose any rights if enforcement action and have to issue the certificate. The onous of proof is on you, an affidavit
      May be needed. The application will take two months before the council issue a decision.
      The fee is only £150 which is a small price to pay to get it resolved. Some councils may require plans.
      I hope this helps.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

        Regarding planning this is easier to resolve by applying forva certificate of lawfulness. If you can prove a minimum of 4 years use as a loft conversion the council Lose any rights if enforcement action and have to issue the certificate. The onous of proof is on you, an affidavit
        May be needed. The application will take two months before the council issue a decision.
        The fee is only £150 which is a small price to pay to get it resolved. Some councils may require plans.
        I hope this helps.
        Don't understand this. A loft is part of a house and the use is residential. After the loft becomes a room it is still part of a house and the use has not changed therefore no planning permission is needed. You can go for a certificate of lawful use if you want but why waste money?

        That's like saying that if you change a dining room into a bedroom you need planning permission for that and therefore it only becomes lawful if it has been used as a bedroom for 4 years....

        If there are external building works such as the provision of dormers then this could require permission, but the change of use point is a non-point.
        RICHARD WEBSTERwww.rwco.co.uk
        As a conveyancing solicitor I want to be helpful (England/Wales only) but can't accept liability for this.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

          Hi,
          I have a very similar question to the original post.

          We moved into my present house four years ago. The house was marketed and sold as a three bed property, as the loft had been converted to a bedroom.
          The previous owners stated that their daughter had used it as her bedroom for approx 10 years.
          Who ever did the work had basically created a box out of the loft and installed two roof windows, the floor joists have not been re inforced.
          The standard of work is fine.
          There is no paper work related to builiding regs or planning permsiion, I think they just went ahead and got it done.

          My question is, we want to now use this room as a bedroom, but i want to make sure the floor is strong enough( i think it is, as it is used for storage and has a drum kit in there).

          How do i do this?, do i just pick a structural suryevor at random?
          Worse case scenario, if i'm told you need to have the joists re inforced and it will cost X, do I have any recourse against the previous owners, as the house was sold as a three bed property?

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

            Getting advice from a structural engineer is probably better than from a surveyor - a surveyor would probably advise you to involve a structural engineer anyway, so you may as well go direct

            No, I do not think you have any claim against the previous owners: you knoew, when you bought, that the conversion work was probably not Building Regulations compliant, so caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) applies
            This is based on my experience as a conveyancing solicitor in England, but I do not accept liability for information I give in this forum

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

              Thanks Justin.

              Do you know if you have to reinforce the floor joists when converting a loft?
              I guesss it is advisable, however a friend of mine converted his loft into a games room and had a full size pool table up there.
              My loft conversion seems fine, as mentioned it is used for storage and we do go in there.

              What is the best way to find structural engineer ? i don't really want to pick one from the yellow pages.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

                I wouldn't know whether reinforcement is needed - I'm a solicitor, not a structural engineer ;-)

                To find a structural engineer, I'd ask a local surveyor. To find a local surveyor I'd ask a local conveyancing solicitor
                This is based on my experience as a conveyancing solicitor in England, but I do not accept liability for information I give in this forum

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

                  Hi Justin, need your advice please.
                  I realise buyer beware applies re my loft conversion and it is the buyer who should ensure builiding regs have been signed off/complied with. However my question is do i have any redress against the surveyor/solicitor who acted for me/my mortgage co in the purchase?
                  Surely this is what they are paid to do? I would imagine this is one of the first questions they should ask upon seeing a loft conversion?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

                    forgot to add, we are thinking of selling and it would see min order to sell as a three bed,we would need to get builiding regs sign off to do this.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

                      I realise buyer beware applies re my loft conversion and it is the buyer who should ensure builiding regs have been signed off/complied with. However my question is do i have any redress against the surveyor/solicitor who acted for me/my mortgage co in the purchase?
                      Surely this is what they are paid to do? I would imagine this is one of the first questions they should ask upon seeing a loft conversion?
                      They would only ask the question if it was obvious that the loft had been converted.

                      If there were no estate agents involved and therefore no "particulars" of the property they would not have any reason to know there was any loft conversion.

                      Even if there were estate agents involved, in some parts of the country it is very common for there to be a third attic bedroom that has been there since before Building Regulations were introduced, so the loft conversion might not have been described as such.
                      RICHARD WEBSTERwww.rwco.co.uk
                      As a conveyancing solicitor I want to be helpful (England/Wales only) but can't accept liability for this.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

                        Hi,
                        Hopefully you guys can help given the last few posts. I am in the process of buying a three house with an additional loft/dormer conversion build without planning permission in late 1960's - so it is effectively 40 years old and doesn't need it now.

                        As reference, the vendor bought the property in 1998 and has used the space as a hobble room.

                        My buildings survey has thrown up concerns about the springy nature of the floor boards on the second floor (dormer level) and the fact that they have not been strengthened. They would not meet today's building regulations and would need to be reinforced, perhaps by RSJ to make it a liveable space. Wiring also looks to be old plastic covered wiring and potentially needs to be rewired (there is a suggestion that the full house is checked). The partition walls are also made of cheap ply and the insultaiton - covered by artex suspected contain aspestos - is very substandard and would need a complete overall.

                        As I have not yet exchanged and this information is new to me - coming from the survey - am I entitled to go back to the vendor and seek some recourse in the price? I thought it would need decoration but not an overhaul. I also have a builder coming this Friday to price up jobs in the house (removing and supporting wall between kitchen and dining room, etc) and will be asking how much making this a living space wold cost.

                        If it helps, there is a permanent stairway that was build for access to the dormer build during the same period as the dormer and does not suffer from undue deflection or springiness.

                        Any guidance would kindly received.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

                          that is a three bedroom house rather than a tree house....

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Does my old loft conversion need planning permission?

                            If you are proposing a development such as a loft conversion, its internal work and as we all know internal works DO NOT require planning permission to some extent. If the loft conversion is a straightforward conversion its likely it will NOT need permission, however its always best to call your local authorities planning department and speak to a duty planning officer for more definitive information. If the conversion involves building up higher than the pitch of the roof then this would almost certainly require planning permission. If the property is a listed building or falls within a conservation area, again always call your local authorities planning department and ask to speak to a duty planning officer, they will be able to advise you on this further as conservation and listed building consent will be required.

                            In regards to the building control (building regulation) side of things, a loft conversion is a notifiable work and building control will need to be notified of this either via a building notice application or via full plans building application. Uusally both options equal the same amount of money however the building notice is the quickest route, you complete the application and you make the payment and submit to building control and can begin work 2 days later, however you take the risk that when the surveyor visits for one of their inspections you can be told to adjust and correct things. Full plans is a longer more efficient way, usually taking up to 6-8 weeks as plans will be vetted by a surveyor, so when work commences its unlikely anything will be unsatisfactory to a surveyor. Towards the end of the development a final inspection will take place and providing the surveyor is happy they will sign it off and a completion certificate will need to be applied for via building control. Thus completing the development, if the documentation is not completed this will deter anyone from buying your property.

                            I hope this helps

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