Buildings Insurance - Lack of Building Control Approval and Planning Permission

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    Buildings Insurance - Lack of Building Control Approval and Planning Permission

    I am Secretary of a self-managing residential management company of a Victorian property converted into a small number of flats.

    We recently had a surveyor look over the condition of our property. His report brought to our attention one of the clauses in our buildings insurance policy which states:

    "We will not pay for the cost to … rebuild, replace or repair illegal installations including any building or part of a building that has been constructed without proper planning permission or in breach of the applicable building regulations.”

    Knowing that there had been major work done 20 years ago to a ground floor flat to convert a cellar into a basement bedroom and to the top floor flat 12 years ago to reconfigure the top landing, 3 bedsits and a shared bathroom as a single self-contained flat, I have been looking for but have found no evidence that planning permission or building control approval were ever obtained for either.

    What should be my plan of action? I am not one to brush things under the carpet but do not want to be accused of panicking.

    Were they needed? Should I be worried or is this ancient history? Is there a statute of limitations? Would digging any further or coming clean to the authorities and insurance company cause more problems than they solve?

    #2
    Building control breaches cannot be enforced after one year. However, the top floor changes are likely to involve fire safety issues, and if you haven't had the fire risk assessment updated accordingly, that might be an ongoing issue. It might also be an ongoing issue under HHRS.

    On the other hand, it seems perfectly reasonable for insurers not to want to insure a building whose safety is in doubt because work was not properly supervised. That is a commercial decision and I would imagine the only way of fixing it is to get retrospective consent. This may involve partial deconstruction, to obtain access to parts that would normally have been inspected part way through the works.

    Licence to alter should have been conditional on all consents being obtained.

    Comment


      #3
      Thanks for your prompt reply.

      Does non-enforceability after one year also apply to planning permission?

      No licences to alter were either sought or issued for either of these works.

      Comment


        #4
        Some single storey extensions do not require planning consent and you should consult the planning section at your local council.

        https://designfor-me.com/advice-and-...ng-permission/

        What kind of buildings insurance policy do you have ?

        If the building is over 120 years old , probably the building was put up without planning consent from a local council ( did Council exist 100 years ago ?) and you may be insuring with the wrong insurance company.

        Comment


          #5
          Planning consent is unenforceable after four years if was simply construction that didn't violate a prior planning condition. Breaches of conditions and changes of use can be enforced up to ten years, except that a change of use to a single private dwelling house is only enforceable for four years.

          In any case where there is a breach that is an issue, even if expired, you should request (and pay for) a certificate of lawfulness.

          Building control breaches can lead to criminal prosecution. Initially planning breaches can only lead to your being ordered to re-instate the previous situation, but I think refusing to do that can lead to criminal proceedings.

          Comment


            #6
            Building control breaches can, of course, be taken into account in manslaughter trials.

            Comment


              #7
              Gordon999:

              As these are flats, they have no development rights so all developments would presumably require planning approval. I didn't mention that we are in a conservation area and subject to an Article 4(2) direction which restricts what is permissible.

              The house is well over a hundred years old and the earliest records for planning applications with our local authority seem to date from the 1920s and I have copies of those but, obviously, nothing from when the house was originally built.

              In my experience, insurance companies always ask how old the property is before insuring it and ours is no exception.

              Comment


                #8
                Do you think a Certificate of Lawful Development will be accepted by an insurance company in lieu of building control and planning permission consents? I do not want to ask them directly for fear of having the plug pulled immediately on our insurance.

                Comment


                  #9
                  The certificate only covers planning, not building control.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    I think you can contact the Fire Station safety officer to ask if there are any special requirements to update your building to latest fire safety standards.

                    You can make a written enquiry to Building Control for information on "internal modifications" , but it probably will say rules only applies to current or recent work. Also make written enquiry to Planning Officer at Local Council.

                    It make turn out that you have to ask a local surveyor to issue a letter to say the building structure is safe and complies to current standards

                    There are many victorian buildings in London and so the london based insurance brokers must be accustomed to insuring such dated buildings. I suggest you make some email enquiries to london based brokers for a "block of flats insurance policy" to insure a victorian building ( excluding your current insurer company ) .

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Originally posted by leaseholder64 View Post
                      The certificate only covers planning, not building control.
                      It looks as though retrospective planning permission and buildings consent are going to be the only way out as you described earlier but I dread to think how disruptive and costly those might be.

                      Also, we have no photos or proper drawings of what the old cellar and bedsits looked like or precisely what was done during the conversion to make them the way they are today.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I have just done more research.

                        We could apply to local authorities for a 'certificate of regularisation' (also known as a 'letter of regularisation' which means that a building control inspector will come out and investigate, in an invasive way where applicable (the applicant having to make good any damage). This costs more than a building control application, presumably to encourage people to get Building Control involved from the start instead of producing a fait accompli.

                        I have also checked three other insurance policies (Aviva, Covea, Liverpool Victoria) and none of these seem to have any clauses mentioning building control or planning permission so we may just have been unlucky to have landed with the one we have. Our surveyor must have had second sight to know that had that type of policy.

                        Renewal is coming up shortly but our property once had a very mild case of subsidence costing a trivial amount to repair (paid for by us without an insurance claim), As a result, many insurers won't even touch us so the pool of available insurers may be small.


                        Comment


                          #13
                          I'm also wondering about this wording:

                          "We will not pay for the cost to … rebuild, replace or repair illegal installations including any building or part of a building that has been constructed without proper planning permission or in breach of the applicable building regulations.”

                          Does it mean "We will not pay for the cost to … rebuild, replace or repair..."

                          a) any building ... that has been constructed without proper planning permission or in breach of the applicable building regulations: i.e. all parts of the entire house would not be paid for; or
                          b) any ...part of a building that has been constructed without proper planning permission or in breach of the applicable building regulations: i.e. only the basement and the top floor flat would not be paid for but everything else would?

                          If b) is true, would they repair the rest of the house if the cause of, say, a fire was sited in the basement or on the top floor flat?

                          I cannot ask the insurance company for fear of the policy being cancelled altogether.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            I think you have to change to another insurance company asap.

                            It no use insuring with a company which applies "restrictions to block your claim or may disqualify any future claim".

                            You have paid for an insurance policy but you have no insurance cover because your building is disqualified according to their rules.

                            Comment

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