We have no paperwork to show for our attic conversion, will it affect our house sale?

Many people convert attics believing it has no planning implications but that’s not the case

You are changing the use of the attic from storage to habitable space and a change of use has planning implications. Photograph: iStock

You are changing the use of the attic from storage to habitable space and a change of use has planning implications. Photograph: iStock

 

I am in the process of selling my house and the agent mentioned that I may be requested to provide full documentation for any changes or extensions carried out during my ownership period. We converted our attic five years ago but I do not have any certification/documentation to support this. I have yet to engage with my solicitor and was hoping that you may have come across this issue before and how it may be resolved at conveyance stage. I am keen to avoid a situation where a renegotiation takes place after the sale agreed stage which could cost me money by way of the buyer seeking a reduced price.

“Development” in the planning code means building something, knocking something or changing its use. Where development is taking place you have to consider if it is exempt from the need for planning permission or if an application for permission is necessary. Your building surveyor/architect/engineer can advise you on this.

Many people convert their attics believing that, as they are not making any structural alterations or building outside the footprint of the house, it has no planning implications. Unfortunately, that is not the case. You are changing the use of the attic from storage to habitable space and a change of use has planning implications.

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The first step is always to take professional advice from your architect/engineer before undertaking any such work. If planning permission is required, apply for it. You should retain your building surveyor/architect/engineer to make the application for you, supervise the building/conversion works and, on completion, furnish you with an opinion/certificate of compliance with planning permission (if it required permission) or an opinion/certificate of exemption from planning (if it did not) and this document should be kept with your title to facilitate a future sale. Proof of compliance with building regulations should also be sought regardless of the need for planning permission.

Bear in mind, too, that if you were granted a mortgage over the property then the prior written consent of your lender to the works will be needed. The standard mortgage deed in Ireland contains a covenant (a promise under seal) by the borrower to comply with planning and not to undertake any works without lender consent.

I would be more concerned with regularising the planning status of your property than worrying about a purchaser renegotiating the price. If the attic conversion required planning permission and you did not obtain it and, perhaps, the work is not compliant with building regulations then you have quite a problem on your hands.

Having an unauthorised development means the pool of prospective purchasers for your property has drastically reduced (as purchasers with bank loans may not be able to buy it) and you are at risk of enforcement by the planning authority.

Ask your building surveyor/architect/engineer now if s/he can retrospectively certify the works as exempt, or if an application for retention permission is required. After taking her/his advice, speak with your solicitor as s/he may need to restrict the standard planning warranty in the contract for sale. Ideally this needs to be sorted out before the property goes on the market.

Paul Stack, P & G Stack Solicitors, Maynooth, Co. Kildare

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