27 Jan Attics and loft conversions. When is a room not legally a room?
If you are looking to create more room in your home, then the space under your roof is often the easiest and most affordable way of achieving that goal. But do you know what you need to do to make that space a ‘legitimate’ part of your home, or what the ramifications might be if you do not?
Most people today realise that you can’t simply add a few boards, a bed and call your attic a fourth bedroom. There are legislative and regulatory hoops to jump through, which if ignored could impact on the value of your home, its saleability, and potentially your own safety.
But when investigating the legality of loft conversions, it makes sense to consider the two instances when this will be most relevant to you: 1) when you’re thinking of buying a property, and 2) when you’re thinking of converting your own loft.
When you’re looking to move home and the property you’re interested in has a loft conversion or attic room make sure that: 1) the property details state that it is a ‘room’ in the property (a bedroom, studio, playroom, etc.), 2) ask the agent what checks they have carried out and paperwork they have seen to confirm that the loft was converted with the knowledge and approval of the local authority, 3) ask the vendor to confirm this, and 4) ensure that your conveyancing solicitor requests sight of the appropriate documentation and confirmation from the local authority that there is nothing outstanding regarding the loft conversion before you proceed with the purchase.
If you buy a property with a loft that does not have the appropriate paperwork, then you may be paying more than the property is worth and have difficulty selling it in the future.
If you have already purchased the property and then realise that the loft is not a legitimate room, don’t panic, you can still apply for retrospective building control approval, though if your loft room fails to meet the required standards you will, of course, be lumbered with the cost of making any necessary changes.
Time to move up
If you are thinking of converting your loft space there are two primary things to consider – planning permission and building regulations.
Most loft conversions come under something called ‘permitted development’, which means that no planning permission is required. However, it’s always important to check first, because to build a loft conversion and then find out it needed planning permission could result in you being asked to remove the work you have done and return the property to its original form, which would make the whole exercise a very costly waste of time and money.
If you are simply converting the inside of your attic space, unless your property is listed or in a conservation area, you can be almost 100% certain that planning permission will not be required. However, the more you change the size and shape of your roof, or there’s potential for privacy issues for neighbours with raised pitches and dormers, the greater the possibility that planning permission will be required.
If you are looking to convert your loft into a liveable space, you will always be required to carry out the works in compliance with building regulations. Among other things, these cover the structural strength of floors in your attic space, the structural stability of the loft, and that there are safe fire escapes and stairs up to this level as well as adequate sound insulation.
Building regulation approval will mean inspections from a local authority building control officer who, upon satisfactory completion of your conversion, will supply you with a building regulations completion certificate. Keep hold of this as your agent and buyer’s solicitor will need sight of this if you decide to sell in the future.
When is a room not legally a room?
A loft or attic space without the appropriate paperwork is not a legitimate room. Vendors, agents and local authorities should have all the information you need to determine whether this is the case. And, if you decide to convert your loft, do it right and keep all the paperwork, or this could well impact on the value of your home in the future.