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  • HMO & Multi-Lets

    Loft room not to spec - can I rent it out?

    Hi Everyone,

    I'm interested in buying a 2 bed house that has a converted loft that is currently being used as a third bedroom.  There's a fixed staircase and a window, but it was not built to any building regulations.  Am I able to rent it out as a 3rd bedroom?  I wanted to have a 3 bed (non licensable) HMO

    I'm worried about insuring the house given there's been alterations without conforming to regulations - and also worst case scenario, something happening whilst renting out the loft as a room

    Thanks for your help

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    No not advisable. If you were letting out the whole house as a single let you would call it 2 bed and let the tenants choose to use as 3rd bed if wished. However by making a HMO you are designating a room specifically as bed/living area which it is not safe to be due to lack of a building control completion certificate. The main safety issue here is fire risk, even if you installed fire doors and wired smoke alarms, if there was a problem it would always come back to you letting out a non habitable room.

    On another note, as someone who has been in building trade and designing structural elements along with calculations, you need to be very wary of a non certificated loft conversion, the main reason they would have been converted as such is a wish to bypass the complicated structural details of a proper loft conversion. This in turn can cause long term structural defects to ceilings, possibly walls and most worryingly the roof via roof spread. I have bought houses with non compliant loft conversions in past but not without checking the structural stability of them. Unfortunately you would be unable to do this as even calling in a structural engineer would result in him covering himself by condemning it.

    Hope this helps

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    Cheers - I am becoming less and less enthusiastic - I hope my offer isn't accepted!  Good advice RE renting the place out as a single let if I did decide to proceed, although the potential dodgy roof issues would persist

    All in all, it's likely to stay in the too-hard basket

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    Even if your offer IS accepted you're not obligated to continue with the purchase , nothing is binding until you sign the contract .

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    Thank you for your excellent advice Steve.  I had a flat in London that I lived in that had had a non-compliant loft conversion.  It caused all sorts of problems and significantly affected the value of the flat.

    I guess there might be opportunity for an experienced person to make the conversion compliant and get any necessary planning permissions or building regs signed off?  Would it add much value and how much might it cost?

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    Hi Vanessa. This is exactly what I have done a couple of times in the past and it has paid off. The important thing about any incompliant loft conversion is that it has appropriate floor steels and joists already inserted, else it is easier starting with a blank canvas aka a house that has never been converted. However if your incompliant conversion does have the above, then you are laughing. A lot of the time an incompliant loft may be simply down to the homeowner not finishing the process or insufficient insulation or most commonly the householder finishes the conversion then does not get around to making the rest of the property fire compliant (fire corridor, doors, wired alarm). In such cases it is relatively easy to put right. In effect you can pay for a 2 bed house and gain the additional value for an extra bed just by making compliant. A double bonus on this is if you are making any building work compliant (called a building control regularisation certificate) the LA officer only has to make sure your corrective works complies with building control documents as they were when the original conversion was carried out. For instance I have made a conversion compliant, without having to have mains smoke detectors, fire doors throughout the property and significantly less insulation than required today. As long as you can reasonably show when the initial works was carried out.

    This can be a useful strategy to add value. The warnings regarding incompliant lofts do not really apply to incompliant extensions which are even easier to make compliant. The only thing to watch out for with extensions is sufficient depth of foundation. I have dug a hole next to an extension of a non compliant property BEFORE exchange of contracts just to be sure.

    Interestingly the issue of planning and building control always seem to get confused. Planning permission simply allows for the proposed works to be built in theory, Building Control worries about the techniques and materials when actually making the erection.

    Generally (though not always) loft conversions need no Planning provided any dormer is at property rear and no higher than ridge of house, instead I am more concerned about Building Control and if non compliant the issue of floor/purlin steel and joists mentioned above. With non compliant extensions I am more concerned about Planning. Provided foundation depth ok I know it is relatively cheap to add value by making compliant. However if the extension contravenes Planning and is unlikely for it to be granted after the fact then you could end up having to tear extension down. One thing to further mention here is that if an extension does not have Planning it does not necessarily present a problem. It may not even need it and be included in permitted development. If not a general rule is although the extension may not add much value, provided the LA have not taken enforcement action or are in the process, then they are possibly not that bothered so you will have a usable extension even without permission. I have even, off the record phoned the LA to see if they have concerns and got the answer that if I officially am asking them, then yes but in reality no.

    Final word all the above is a good way to make a quick buck (I do it all the time) or gain cheap extra space but you do need to have some understanding of building construction and ideally maths (for structural calcs), or know someone who does.

    Sorry for long post. Hope it is of some use to someone

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    Out of interest what are the logistical issues for a loft extension for a bog standard terrace property?

    In particular the issue of relevant steelwork

    Seems quite a major exercise to put in steelwork to an existing roof structure though I accept that most of the roof will be changed anyway.


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    No not at all, it is all relatively simple and like a big mechano kit. You can crane steels, I prefer to have spliced steels (cut in half bolted back together) and literally carry them through the loft hatch by hand.  You would have one steel at floor level running side to side about 1.5m in from front eaves. Floor joist would sit in this and rest on rear wall. That's it. If you want a large rear dormer, another steel at ridge level, leave front roof alone then frame up dormer. Obviously things can get more involved but for a terrace this would be the basis. The bigger issue with a smallish property is positioning the staircase. Ideally a staircase should be inserted on the return of the landing (often there is a cupboard there) and run directly above the old stairs. If there is not space there you have to be careful; there is not much point losing a box bedroom to put in stairs to only gain a double bedroom upstairs. 

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    Ah!!!

    Didn't realise it was OK to have spliced steelwork.

    You make the job sound very easy!!!

    Not something I would ever do though.

    Is there anything extra one should do now to be EPC C or even B compliant with a loft extension.

    I would imagine that even with PD rights it is still appropriate or necessary to have the council check the plans and construction whilst being carried out.

    Still from what you advise it doesn't seem such an intimidating project.

    What do you reckon for the average bog standard terrace property a loft extension would cost.

    One a basic double bedroom and the other with an en-suite.

    My house can easily take a full staircase from the existing landing and I've had a look round the neighbour's who has a 1 room loft extension.

    Can't use the L bit though.

    But I was wondering since the announcement of being able to increase to the existing higher roofline I could get a full en-suite bathroom in.

    There seem to have been so many changes as to what you can now do to your own property I confess in not sure what is allowed

    To such loft extensions make sense rather than moving

    Most people move for an extra bedroom and would stay if they could magic up that bedroom.

    When you factor in all the moving costs it seems dumb to move if you can improve!

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    Hi Paul

    No it is not really a DIY project but you can keep costs down. If you just employ a chippy with a labourer to get the steels in and frame up and put a staircase in, made in a workshop, he will be done in about 5 days. Then you can employ other individual trades to keep costs down. Cost is what you want it to be, for a terrace, depending what you want, but breaking out with a full dormer, I would say £18k to £26k. Obviously price is higher end of scale if you get one of these awful all in one loft conversion companies. Bare in mind what it costs the builder to do. From start to finish, including a separate bathroom my last one cost me £5.5k but I do all the trades incl wiring and plumbing and only employ 1 labourer to help.

    The insulation standards you have to meet would make the loft rated A for EPC, only the rest of your house would drag the rating down

    With regards to Council, you only contact Building Control a couple of days before you start. If you get an engineer to do the calculations, you do send these in but they don't need to be checked before you start, they are so simple and box standard (I do my own) Building Control are always quite helpful and once you pay the fee will come out the day you start if you ask nicely and tell you what they want done and when to call them in next. Bare in mind it is not officially the control officer's job to tell you what to do but they are good people and are always happy to have a chat and guide you through. But don't phone them to talk get them round on their own, cup of coffee waiting and bacon butty, they will practically take your hand and guide you through the work.

    You can use the L bit if you wish. It is a great way to get a full sized bathroom in. When I say you can only go ridge height, that is of the main roof. It can look a bit intrusive on the outside though but more than compensated by the extra space gained.  

    A bit of careful thought in design can leave you with a separate bathroom, the largest bedroom in the house and a reasonable landing upstairs. My aim is to always make the new 3rd floor look like it was built with the house inside, rather than a conversion shoved on top making an awkward space.

    Last thing, as said before, you would have to have fire doors fitted on all rooms, not kitchens / bathrooms. They can be fitted in your existing frames. Also you basically have to have hallway leading from loft to front or back door, without walking through another room.

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    You say awful all in one loft companies!

    Why is that!?

    Is it better then to have a jobbing builder who may have done loft conversions before

    I could do no worse than use whoever did my neighbour's one!

    Think I'll have to save up first though

    My semi - detached neighbour mentioned having a loft extension aswell etc

    Do you reckon we could achieve a better price if the two loft extensions were done at the same time?

    Possibly identical layout.

    Would you ever be interested in such work as you seem to know what you are talking about?

    I guess you wouldn't be a fedupbuilder!?




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