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Changes to floor plans - what is considered too risky to buy?

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  • Changes to floor plans - what is considered too risky to buy?

    Hi there (first-time poster long time reader here),
    I have been looking at some slightly older properties - 50s - 70s roughly and there are often changes from original floor plans and I am trying to work out which sorts of issues are ones that I should consider too risky. I get a lot of varying advice from different people about how seriously to take different sorts of discrepancies and I would be really interested in hearing the advice of people on this forum as I've loved reading other threads.

    One specific case is one where there have been moderate alterations to things like the position of windows, some doors and internal walls but no change to the footprint of the house and no additional rooms or anything. It does look like a lot of these changes were done after '92 and the property file seems to indicate that.

    The place has consents for a lot of things and everything in the external footprint is absolutely fine. But there are no consents for some things relating to moderate changes to walls and doorways, windows etc as noted below. It is a fairly tidy mid-50s place but has a pitched, concrete tile roof so I imagine structural elements are something to consider.

    There is however no consent for open planning the dinning & living room which with a pitched roof would be load bearing; it looks like a fairly hefty beam is installed and there is a little bit of visible reinforcing around the edges of the walls. There is also a partial wall removed to open up the kitchen. While this wall didn't span the full width, in an older house I assume it could be considered a bracing element; there was no beam or anything added there but as mentioned it didn't span the whole width; the kitchen was previously semi-open.

    The other thing that I was unsure how risky to consider was that, when the windows were redone, some of them were installed in quite different positions to the plans in the property file and there were no plans in the property file that matched the modern day locations of windows. With it being brick, the top half of the cladding was noticeably overhauled to do this. These modifications were obviously done post '92 to anyone viewing the property file in detail; so repositioning windows would have involved cutting into the frame and redoing lintels etc etc and additionally all of the top half of the cladding was completely redone. The windows are comparable sizes to the originals though.

    The other modifications to floorplans are fairly minor as it just opened up an old laundry & very small entryway to one room and repositioned some doorways. But the main positions of larger rooms and corridors were all the same.

    I hear a lot of differing opinions as to how to consider the risk attached to older properties with varying degrees of unconsented modifications. I was interested in hearing people's thoughts as to what are considered no-goes and what are considered acceptable.

    Additionally I had some specific questions about implications of having windows that are in different positions to those on the original plans and a open planned dinning/living room.

    If the original plans are different, is it impossible to lodge newer plans in the future if the positions of things have changed without the consent process? I know there are a lot of grey areas as pre-92 changes wouldn't have required consents; if a newer plan for anything was lodged in the future as part of a new consent for anything would the council actually go into the detail of looking at the original plans and going through and see if windows were repositioned post '92 etc or would they just lodge the new plans and treat it as a second consent?

    Re' the repositioning of windows and external doors, it is only some that are in noticeably different positions, with an older house is it much of an issue not having a floorplan in the property file that matches things like that precisely. While the repositioning would've been technically non-consenting, is it actually an issue if it was done a couple of owners ago and you're not the one doing it? Is it considered a much lesser issue than an actual unconsented change to the external footprint? My main concern would be that it does indicate that all of those changes were made to the external walls which would've contained some load bearing and bracing elements, which in combination with the cladding would mean that all of that was done to an unknown standard. It looks like it has been done to a high standard but how much of a risk is not having that documented?

    I know it is fairly common advice to get the LIM and property file and compare the original plans to any consented changes; so I know a lot of prospective future buyers and their solicitors would look at something like this straight away. Are the exact positions of windows something people aren't generally bothered about as part of this process? I know this varies a lot between buyers but I'd really like people's general opinion on this.

    Also, for future consents for other works, how likely are the exact positions of windows to affect any future consenting processes?

    If they are structurally sound and there are no issues, would insurers look at the finer points of the positioning of windows were you to need to claim on anything that was in an area with the windows? I would assume it could get complicated if future consents to fix anything were complicated by anything.

    Anyway, any thoughts/discussion on any of the points above would be really interesting and helpful. I've been looking at other older properties as well and there are so many things to take into account when considering the risk to future S&P, insurance, consents etc. My impression is that now-a-days buyers, solicitors and lenders are becoming more risk adverse and councils are probably increasingly strict on structural things so issues like those detailed above may warrant consideration or am I overthinking it? Some people have said that I am being too thorough and overthinking and that all older properties will have 'something like that'; however, I am just wary that most of those things listed above were definitely fairly recent without consent and I assume that a lot of older houses would have matching floorplans in the property file and consents for recent works like that.

    All advice is very appreciated.
    Cheers

  • #2
    as building act now allows windows and doors to be moved and added your concerns are unfounded.

    if you want assurance and want to update the property file then submit a revised plan as a schedule 1 report but your call
    Last edited by donna; 29-09-2020, 04:21 PM.

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    • #3
      Hi John, thanks for that - interesting. We have a 110 yo bungalow, and the property file has no details of the layout other than a plan where the house is defined only as a simple empty rectangle.

      Does that mean we can have our builder move a door or window, or change the internal layout, without involving council paperwork? He seems to be happy to do so and is usually quite conservative when it comes to crossing his t's and dotting his i's.

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