Basement conversion not in line with Building/Planning regs

Postby dansten » Tue Feb 26, 2008 1:51 pm

I’m looking at buying a 3 story semi including a basement level which is being advertised as a self contained flat. This flat is currently being rented out and is part of the sale.

I have been informed by the estate agent that the flat was not converted in line with building and planning regs but that I could continue to rent it out.
Is this correct and what are the implications of doing this? Also, what would be the approx cost of meeting these regs (effectively a door has been blocked off and there is no insulation, fire doors, etc). There is adequate lighting as the basement mirrors the other floors (ie there are windows in each room).

Thank you.
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Simply Build It

Postby arbco » Sat Mar 01, 2008 8:08 pm

Check if the basement flat is registered as a seperate property with the council. Restrospective planning and b regs is availble but will involve a lot of work to the areas you suggest and more. Remember the flat will be considered a new dwelling and will be a change of use in terms of planning and b regs. In terms of cost it depends where you are in the country but may run to £15k +. Is the flat entered through the main dwelling or fully self contained?
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Postby dansten » Mon Mar 10, 2008 1:52 pm

Apologies for the tardy reply. The flat is self contained in that it has a separate entrance to the main dwelling. There is a side gate leading around the back of the house to the entrance door to the flat, which opens onto the flat's kitchen.

I have checked with the council and the flat is not registered as a separate dwelling. I believe that the implication of this is that the basement is effectively another room which has a kitchen, lounge and toliet attached which I could continue to rent? I understand that I would have to convert it in line with regs if I wanted to sell it separately.

However, my concern is that 'substance over form' implies that due to the separate entrance and kitchen, etc the basement is classed as a flat and should be in line with regs- and the council could force me to meet these requirements even if I just wanted to continue renting it out and not sell?

In which case my options are:
-retrospective planning, etc or
- requiring that the vendor takes out an indemnity insurance on potential council enforcement of regs in the future?

When the vendor initially bought the property all the above would have been raised in the survey and solicitors searches?

Thank you again for your time- it is much appreciated!
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Postby arbco » Mon Mar 10, 2008 7:01 pm

I'm sure that you could continue to rent and the imdemnity insurance would be a strong advisory from your solicitor although B Regs wouldn't take enforcement action if the works are more than 12 months old (in fact far less time in real terms maybe 6 months) Planning is a similar situation but they have 3 years (I think, maybe more for listed etc??) to take enforecement action. The imdemnity is due to an obscure part of the Housing act but not used by L.A's to enforce in my experience.

You are no further forward really as the works were unauthorised and you could try and regularise but it will cost and you run the risk of not obtaining planning. From your description there does not seem any doubt that the flat is self contained and would have been a change of use. Sorry.
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Postby Degsy » Mon Mar 24, 2008 12:35 pm


Irrespective of Building Regs or Planning issues, if you wish to rent out property (or part of) it has to comply with the Housing Act 2004. If you contact your Local Authority Environmental Health Department (Housing Standards) they should be able to either survey the property (under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System HHSRS) and tell you what is needed to comply or at least supply you with the relevant information. There are certain requirements for underground rooms such as natural light and ventilation which aren't covered by Building Regs. Fire separation and detection is also a issue and the standards are greater than building regs. With being a 3 storey you may require a more subtantial detection system other than mains wired smoke detectors to hallway and landing? Its difficult to comment accurately as each layout is taken on its own merit. i.e. I dont know if you are letting the remainder of the property or occupying it yourself? If the whole property is being let, it may well be worth contacting your local Fire Station and speaking to the fire safety section who will assist you in carrying out a fire risk assessment.

Also its worth bearing in mind that (although it may be wrong) different LA's will have different levels of enforcement. I used to be an Environmental Health Officer for a 'City' LA and part of an extremely pro-active housing standards dept, However, I am now a Building Control Officer for a rural LA and the HS section is extremely laxed, mainly due to staffing levels. So it all depends on where you are and as with Approved docs for Building Regs, The "Housing Standards" are taken from guidance.

Good luck
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Postby matt h » Fri Mar 28, 2008 12:54 am

THIS PROPERTY ISNT IN FAREHAM BY ANY CHANCE? HAD TO DEAL WITH A PROPERTY THERE WITH AMMAZING SIMILARITIES.. as the works were mot carried out to standerd, you can expect costs of up to or in excess of £20.000 to meet the separate dwelling regulations, insulation and fireproofing etc. There are likely to be other issues which may not be readily apparent... its a case of buyer beware :(
matt h
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Joined: Thu Mar 27, 2008 11:35 pm

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