Be Particular about Planning
We all remember the case of the ‘Disney mansion’ that planners insisted had to be torn down in the Cotswolds, as it bore little relation to the planning permission granted, even though the extensions were made by the previous owner.
Rachel Johnston, Regional Director of Stacks Property Search and Acquisition, says, “Planners may well enter into negotiations with the developers and owners, but this is a terrible situation. The current owners didn’t undertake the work, that was done by the previous owners, but it seems incredible that the property was purchased without the necessary checks being undertaken, either by themselves, or their advisors.
“While this is a very dramatic example of buyers not taking the necessary precautions, there are many occasions where the implications of failing to do thorough checks can cause misery and heartache.
“It’s all too easy when buying property to assume that your solicitor, and the Local Authority Search will uncover any planning irregularities in the property itself, its outbuildings, the grounds, boundaries, or the surrounding area. But this a dangerous assumption to make.
“Your solicitor is unlikely to visit the property, and visual clues are the best indicator of problems. Local Authority Searches are not as extensive as you might think – on one occasion we discovered there was planning permission for a new house to be built 20 meters away from the house a client was intending to buy, a piece of information that the Search didn’t reveal.
“When you’re buying a property, it’s important to be sure that any work that has been completed has been done with the proper permissions and building regulations. The vendor may be hoping that work undertaken without the proper permissions can be swept under the carpet; but the buyer must beware. The new owners can find that they take on responsibility for previous owners’ failure to comply with required procedures.
“Before exchange of contracts you need to be sure that you are not taking on the vendors’ liabilities. Your solicitor will go through a whole array of procedures with this in mind, but you can assist the process by looking out for warning signs. You should draw your solicitors attention to any of the following, asking for confirmation that the correct paperwork exists:
- Tennis courts or swimming pools
- Converted outbuildings
- Garden extensions
- Living accommodation separate to primary accommodation
- Office accommodation
- Major internal work, especially where supporting walls are involved
- Loft conversions
“Don’t ever assume that planning permission or building regulations have been received – it’s safer to check it out. A classic example is where a garage or outbuilding has been converted into living accommodation – if your solicitor is unaware of the use of the building, they won’t be prompted to investigate the regularities.
“If you do come across a problem, you don’t necessarily need to throw your hands up in horror and walk away. It may put you in a good position to renegotiate. Look at how the irregularity affects your view of the property, the cost of reinstating, or the likelihood of getting retrospective planning permission. Work hard at assessing the risk, and make your decision based on full knowledge of the facts.
“Finally, whilst the vendor will be held responsible for statements made on the Vendors Disclosure Form, always have your professionals verify every single claim.”
As your Buying Agent, Stacks would take care of all of these trying matters – perhaps it is time you gave Rachel a call to explore how Stacks can provide valuable assistance for your house purchase, far beyond the shortlisting of possible houses.
Click Here to understand more how a Search Agent can help you in your hunt for the perfect home.