Retrospective planning - previous owner error!

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    Retrospective planning - previous owner error!

    I am just about to sell my house and I'm dismayed to learn that the previous owner did not abide by planning permission. He built an extension for which he obtained council and freeholder planning permission. However, it turns out that the internal layout of the extention is substantially different from what was agreed. I bought the house 15 years ago and my solicitor has not kept the files so I cannot even see how this was missed.

    The freeholder seems to have been fully aware but has only now disclosed the problem - right at the point of the sale. They have not named their price yet for retrospective consent but I fear it will be a large bill and I will have no choice but to pay it.

    This all seems very unfair. How can I get them down to a reasonable price? And what recourse do I have against my previous solicitor who missed this or the previous owner who did this?


    Hi Karen, I'd considering lodging a complaint against your conveyancing solicitor. If your complaint remains unresolved, contact the Law Society (the Legal Ombudsman - 0300 555 0333). It is likely that a certificate of lawfulness could be sought, which is a £234 fee to the council and you'll need some plans of the existing (as built) layout so that they can compare with the permission that was granted. The whole thing should cost you less than £1K. Given that the Council have not taken enforcement action in the time you have owned the property, then they aren't now in a position to take action (also known as the 4 year rule). However, regularising your position through a certificate of lawfulness will sort this out. The caveat to this is if the building is listed - where different rules apply. The freeholder would have been aware of the planning process, but may not have been aware that the implementation of the permission was faulty.


      The alternative to seeking consent is to buy the freehold title by enfranchisement of leasehold house under the 1967 Act.

      What is the unexpired years remaining on your lease and what is the annual ground rent ?


        Planning permission doesn't cover internal layout. This sounds more like a lack of freeholder consent.


          There could also be building control issues. It is far too late for a prosecution, but failing to comply could mean the property is unsafe.


            Thanks so much for your advice. As you say, its about a lack of freeholder consent. The free holder has not sent a bill for nearly £5k including £1k for fees! I've just paid it because I can't afford for the house sale to come unstuck. How can I claw back this money? The previous conveyancing solicitor will not engage and they say the don't keep records longer than 7 years anyway. The costs seem unreasonable to me. its money for nothing! In the letter where the freeholder raised the lack of consent they showed an intimate knowledge of the inside of the house. They have never visited - so I can surmise the they knew all along what the previous owner did but never pursued until now. That's just so wrong.

            So ... am I better to go after the dodgy solicitor or the greedy freeholder once the sale has gone through?



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