At the weekend we removed a ground-floor internal non-loadbearing wall which technically needs to be in place to comply with the Building Regs Part B which apply to Fire & means of escape, as we have a loft conversion (wall formed a corridor between stairs & front door). We knew this would be the case and are prepared to live with this, as we feel satisfied that we have sufficient means to escape through other routes at every level of the house (yes, we know there is some risk here & building regs are there for a reason etc etc, but we do feel confident with our alternatives).
However, for some inexplicable reason we completely forgot to consider that the BCO will be visiting the property, possibly several times, in the next few weeks to inspect some separate internal/external plumbing works we are also doing....
Does anyone know if they are likley to comment on non-compliance in an area other than that which they are inspecting? If so are they likely to take action against us? We are considering leaving the studwork up & saying we are putting the wall up - the plans we originally submitted showed no wall present. We have always intended to reinstate the wall before we sell.
Alternatively we have an indemnity policy in place covering the loft conversion from when we bought the property (no approval was supplied although it does meet regs) - could we invoke this & claim the wall was never there?
I do appreciate we are deliberately contravening the regs here but we really really can't live with the wall up, and I have heard that a lot of people get approval & then remove the work etc.
If something "technically" needs to be in place to comply with regs then "tecnically" leave it there! Regardless of how competent you feel, you are breaking the law and your house insurance will not be valid. You have a duty of care to thise living in, staying in, visiting or buying your house and it is a legal problem when you knowingly comprimise their safety. Even if the inspector does not pick it up because his blind dog does not sniff it out then the surveryor will when you try to sell. If you have left your house in a dangerous condition you will have to put it back together before you sell. The regs are there to keep you and your family safe, not for playing games with.
In addiiton to the comments by the Doctor removing the wall is a 'material alteration' and requires building regulation regulation permission. The BCO when visiting site will certianly mention this if the wall looks like it has been recently removed!!
Thanks for input Alda - we removed the wall for both light & space! To reinstate it would mean living with a horrible, poky dark little corridor which we really don't want to do if there is an alternative. The suggestion about glass/glass blocks is a good one & we would definitely consider doing this if we had to.
However having considered it thoroughly, and taking into account thedoctor's response above, we decided that we don't want to risk our insurance - or worse - by not complying. We feel confident that we could escape from a fire if we had to without the offending wall being in place, but do recognise that the same may not be true of others (guests etc). We have never been concerned about resale because as mentioned in my original post we have always intended to put the wall back before selling - it's only timber stud construction. Also, I think a lot of people feel that the Building Regs can sometimes be interpreted as overly-directive, and certainly leave little room for tailoring to individual solutions based on circumstances, but we just don't want to take the risk, especially given that the BCO will be coming to visit us several times over the next few weeks!
Therefore we have decided to go for the option of installing a sprinkler system which should bring our open-plan layout up to regs standard. If anyone has any experience of doing this, and/or ideas of cost, we'd really appreciate hearing about it! If not I'll post something here when we know more, in case this is of use to others in the future!
There are a few companies providing retro fit sprinkler systems but I would check with your water company as well as L.A as some do not permit sprinkler systems due to possible water contamination, even with non return valves. In some cases the system cannot be connected to the main but requires a tank (a very big tank).
The cost for a reasonably sized dwelling should be Â£1500 (ish) providing the water company is happy.