When common sense conveyancing bursts through a Building Regulation problem

Mr Clements was absolutely shocked when his Buyer’s conveyancing lawyers raised the question about Building Regulation Approval for removal of a chimney breast in his house.

Mr Clements had lived at the property since 1979 and during that period had not removed any chimney breast from the property.  

Having advised the Buyer’s conveyancing solicitors of this point (namely that the works must have been conducted more than 30 years ago) they did not let go of the point.   The issue had been highlighted by the Buyer’s survey and was therefore on the Buyer’s conveyancer’s radar.   In most cases a buyer’s solicitor would take a pragmatic approach to this.   The fact is that enforcement action would not be taken by the Local Authority as the works were carried out more than four years ago unless the works were of such poor quality that the chimney breast had been removed was an immediate threat to health and safety - there was no such suggestion of this in the Buyer’s survey.

 This particular conveyancer was like a dog with a bone and would simply not let go.   Mr Clements was becoming more and more agitated and it was clear that despite the various commercial solutions put forward, such as indemnity insurance, they were insistent that Building Regulations were relevant and therefore were suggesting that Mr Clements invites the Local Authority Building Regulation Department into the property and obtain a retrospective certificate.  

This presented a problem, not just in terms of the financial cost, but more importantly the delay.   Mr Clements and indeed the Buyer were anxious to proceed to exchange contracts.   Ironically, the Buyer was willing to proceed without this issue being addressed.

Just at the point when it was looking increasingly likely that Building Regulations would have to be invited into the property, the conveyancer handling the case for Mr Clements decided to have an off the record chat with the senior district surveyor at the Local Authority.   It was an extremely common sense and pragmatic approach.   It was felt that the conveyancer should see if the District Surveyors Department could suggest any way around the problem such as a comfort letter to say that they would not take any enforcement action.   Prior to speaking to the department the conveyancer ran the idea passed the client who was happy to consent for us to speak to the Local Authority (albeit initially not revealing the property address).  

The Fridaysmove conveyancer also spoke to the Buyer’s solicitors to seek clarification that if we obtain a comfort letter saying that no enforcement action would be taken (albeit that this should not have been required because the point was that the Council could not any action as mentioned above) that he would proceed.   He confirmed that he would accept such a letter and move to an immediate exchange.   Once we spoke to the district surveyor he indicated that not only would he be happy to provide a comfort letter but that the Building Regulation inspections were only introduced at that particular Local Authority six months after Mr Clements had purchased the property.   On the basis that Mr Clements had not carried out the works himself it would have been impossible to even provide a Building Regulation Certificate.   That explanation was put in writing by the Local Authority as well as a paragraph giving comfort that no enforcement action would be taken.   This satisfied the Buyer’s solicitors’ requirements and we proceeded to a satisfactory exchange and completion.   This particular case illustrates how a conveyancer can take a pragmatic approach as well as a legal approach to a problem on a property and sometimes burst through what appears to be an impasse.