Take out special insurance cover

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QI want to sell my house, but I understand there could be a problem because of alterations made without proper consent.

AThat rather depends on what you had done – in other words, whether it was the sort of work which only required building regs approval, or whether you should also have applied for planning permission. If the latter, then yes, you could have a major problem – not least since the purchaser’s surveyor will almost certainly raise the issue. Planning rules generally exist for a reason and people flout or ignore them at their peril.

Minor infringements may be overlooked, but at the other end of the scale it is not unknown for entire homes to be demolished if they were built without proper planning consent -–not that I want to worry you! In the case of building regs, things are rather more straightforward, inasmuch as you can always apply for retrospective approval. However, there are a couple of catches. Firstly, your local authority will probably want to charge you fees several times higher than usual. Secondly, the alterations must conform to current building regs – not the ones in force when the work was actually done –- and since these regs are constantly being updated, this could be a bit of a headache.

All things considered, you are probably much better off taking out special insurance cover 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, which your own solicitor can arrange.

The good news is that, since the risk factor is fairly low, the cost of such cover is pretty reasonable and normally involves just a single payment. One thing worth remembering, however: cover will probably 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 which might make a claim more likely – and we all know how insurance companies hate claims.

Meanwhile, don’t even get me started on Listed Buildings consent!