We found out that the extension on the property we have gone 'sale agreed' on does not meet building regulations or have planning permission.

September 2013

Question

My wife and I have gone sale agreed on a house in south Co Dublin which was being sold by a financial institution due to a landlord being in financial distress. The house is listed as a four-bedroom semi-detached home with one of the bedrooms downstairs at the back of the house in an extension. It now appears that the extension does not meet the building regulations and did not have the required planning permission.

We do not know what to do. Should we pull out of the deal and ask for our deposit back because of the poor extension or should we try and negotiate the price down based on a reasonable price for a three-bedroom home and factor in the need to invest money in bringing the extension up to the required standards? Also, is it feasible someone could object to the extension for not having planning permission and that we would be required to take it down?

Answer

It may be some consolation to know that this is not an unusual problem. If the extension is to the rear of the property and does not exceed 40sq m (430sq ft), it will generally not require planning permission. There are height considerations and conditions relating to the remaining size of the back garden. All extensions, whether planning permission was required or not, should comply with the building regulations that were current at the time of construction. Most houses more than five years’ old would not comply with current building regulations but the important issue is that they would have had to comply with the regulations as existed at the time of their construction.

If someone complains to the planning authority about the extension, eg a neighbour, the planning authority will issue a warning letter within six weeks. You would then have four weeks to respond. The authority will then investigate and make a decision. The decision could be as simple as making you apply for permission for the extension but could go as far as instructing you to remove the extension. The latter is unlikely unless the extension is very large or particularly poorly constructed. Expert advice from an architect or planning consultant is essential before you decide how or if to proceed with the purchase.

If you are borrowing for the purchase, the valuer will have to advise the bank that there is an issue with planning permission and the property will be valued as a three-bedroom, not four-bedroom, house.

I would recommend that you get written advice from a chartered quantity surveyor on the likely costs involved in making the extension comply with the building regulations before you try to renegotiate the purchase price. The financial institution selling the property will know that this issue will be raised whoever is buying the house so they may be sensible enough to allow a reduction in the price if you have professional opinions to show them on the planning, compliance and anticipated remedial costs.

Simon Stokes is chairman of the residential property professional group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland