Building Regulations vs indemnity insurance: what’s the difference and which one do we need?

Question: When we bought our house there was no Building Regulations completion certificate for the loft conversion but the seller had an indemnity policy. Our solicitor said that was fine as it satisfied our mortgage lender’s requirements.

Now we are selling, our agent says our buyer isn’t happy there’s no certificate. Should we have refused to accept the indemnity insurance when we bought? 

Answer: Building Regulations set minimum standards for construction, design and alterations and are concerned with safety.

Indemnity insurance can cover lack of Building Regulations consent but provides no reassurance as to the safety or integrity of the work where a building has been altered without such approval.

The local authority can serve an enforcement notice for lack of consent and force you to alter or remove the works. Indemnity insurance can cover the legal costs and fees should this happen. 

With no independent building control inspection and no appropriate approval, it is possible the work wasn’t done properly.

For example, your loft conversion may not have been built with a safe means of exit in the case of fire.

Your solicitors should have advised you when you bought of the limitations of indemnity insurance and should perhaps have suggested you get a survey or a structural engineer’s report into whether the conversion was safely and properly done.

An application for retrospective Building Regulations consent may have been another option.

Look at the advice you received when you bought your house. You may have cause for complaint against the solicitors who acted for you.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. Questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here.

Fiona McNulty is a solicitor specialising in residential property.

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