Stitch in time


Derek Inkpin from local solicitors Axiom DWFM looks at how keeping your building work paperwork organised may save you a lot of time and stress in the future

The English language is rich in idioms and proverbs which we hear throughout our lives. “A stitch in time saves nine,” means, of course, that if you resolve a problem immediately, it may save a lot of extra work later. So, how does this impact on home ownership?

If you are selling your house or flat and you or a predecessor have undertaken alterations, such as the creation of a through-sitting room or the removal of a chimney breast, is there a problem if you cannot produce the paperwork? Planning permission for alterations may not have been needed, but compliance with building regulations and the need to have a completion certificate to confirm observance will be vital.

What is called a Regularisation Certificate application may be required if no building regs consent has been issued. Applying for this will cause delay to your sale and could sour the whole process and badly affect the chain both above and below you. You could be blamed by all concerned because the buyer or their surveyor are calling for evidence that the building works were done to a professional standard, and without proof that the regulations have been complied with, obtaining an indemnity insurance policy may not be an adequate answer. This is because the structural integrity of the property may have been affected by these works and your buyer may be concerned that they are buying a problem, which may not be answered by an indemnity policy. It all sounds like a potential headache.

As a seller, you can provide an assurance you had a good builder all those years ago but his paperwork may now be mislaid. Part of the problem here is that if you approach your council building control department and ask for a retrospective building regs consent and completion certificate, once the council engages with you, they may insist on ‘opening up’ the works to make sure the RSJ supporting the through-sitting room works has been properly done. If not, the building work may be condemned as inadequate and, at that stage, if you are unlucky, the whole chain may start to fall apart.

Another issue is that approaching the council will likely negate the terms of getting indemnity insurance because the insurer may likely not insure you because the council knows there is a problem. Admittedly, the council cannot prosecute after two years, but that may not be much comfort to your buyer.

The stitch in time therefore is if you get your paperwork organised at the time the building work is completed. It may save you a lot of worry many years later.

Axiom DWFM is located at 9–13 Cambridge Park, Wanstead, E11 2PU. For more information, call 020 8215 1000