Q. I had some alterations done on my property some years ago, without getting planning consent or building regulations approval. Now I want to sell. What can I do?
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A. That rather depends on the nature of the work you had done, whether it only required building regs approval, or whether you should also have applied for planning consent. If the alterations were of sufficient importance to warrant the latter, and you failed to act on it, then, frankly, you could have a major problem, not least since the purchaser’s surveyor will almost certainly raise the issue. Planning rules are there for a reason, and people flout them at their peril. Minor infringements may be overlooked – but it is not unknown for people to have their entire homes demolished if they were built without proper planning consent.
In the case of building regs, things are rather more straightforward, inasmuch as you can always apply for retrospective approval. However, there are two main problems with this. One is that your local authority will probably want to charge you fees two or even three times higher than usual. The other is that the work concerned has to conform to current building regs – not the ones that were in force at the time the alterations were actually carried out. And since these regs are constantly being tightened up and made more stringent, this can be a major headache.
All in all then, you are probably much better off taking out special insurance to indemnify a purchaser against any future problems over the lack of building regs approval. The likelihood of this happening is admittedly fairly slim – in practice, most councils won’t take action if the work is more than a year old, although they are perfectly within their rights to do so. Nevertheless, your purchaser (or rather, your purchaser’s solicitor) will probably insist upon you taking out this insurance.
The good news is that, since the risk factor is fairly low, the cost of such cover is pretty reasonable – generally, somewhere between £100 and £200.
Two things to remember, however: 1) cover will be refused if you have already approached your local authority over the issue, since they will then have been alerted to a breach of the regs, and 2) this insurance can only be arranged through your solicitor. You can’t buy it direct.