Big lateral property extensions are becoming impractical in overcrowded urban environments. As an alternative, people are now increasingly turning to loft conversions as means of boosting the square footage of their property and adding value without having to move home. All over the UK, people who once neglected lofts are now taking advantage of extra bedrooms, playrooms, guest accommodations and storage rooms. Not only do loft conversions allow families to benefit from more versatile space in the short-term, but they also add to the financial value of the property in the long run.
Last year, research conducted by Nationwide Building Society found that adding a loft conversion, which includes a double bedroom and ensuite bathroom would add on average around 20% to the value of a three-bed property. However, there are a number of considerations that need to be borne in mind by anyone contemplating taking the plunge These include the cost which could easily be in the range between £35,000 and £45,000. It should come as no surprise before deciding to embark on such a substantial alteration, particularly if you are only buying a property because you believe that it has redevelopment potential, to consult a Conveyancing Solicitor and a specialist Loft Conversion Company.
Is a loft conversion right for me and legally possible?
The first thing that you need to do before even considering a loft conversion, is to check and make sure that you own the roof and the roof space. If you live in a house, this is most likely not going to be an issue, but if you own a leasehold over a top-floor flat, you should request your solicitor check the title deeds and ensure that the space doesn’t belong to the freeholder or the other owners, in which case you would need their permission and a conveyance of their interest in the roof over to you.
The next step would be to assess whether that roof space is suitable for conversion. To do that, you would be better off instructing an experienced builder or contractor to check that the internal height of the roof is at least 2,500mm, the internal rules are minimum 5,500mm by 7,500mm and that the pitch angle of the roof is sufficiently high. It is also a good idea to ask your loft conversion specialist about their plans for minimising dust, disruption and damage to the rest of the house during the conversion process.
It is only once you have established that the space is suitable for conversion that you can then start thinking about how you would use it. It is critical not to underbudget or overestimate the space you will get, as things like sloped ceilings can minimize floor space and restrict movement and the type of equipment and furniture you will be able to store there. It is also important to remember that whilst loft conversions add new space, they can also take away existing storage space. Your conveyancing solicitor and contractor can help you make a hard-headed assessment of whether a loft conversion is the most appropriate way of extending your property and what the realistic timeframes for carrying out the works are.
What approvals will I need for Loft Conversion?
Loft conversions can be simple or more complex and extensive, requiring major structural works and incorporating things like dormer windows or ensuite bathrooms, so it is important to ensure that all the requisite approvals are obtained. It is best to check with your Local Planning Authority and Building Control Body what works you are allowed to carry out before incurring the expense of instructing a contractor to submit a formal application on your behalf.
It is also important to remember that Local Councils reserve the right to revoke some permissions under Article 4 of the Town and Country planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015. Whilst you should already be aware of this, it is is worth checking whether Article 4 direction has been issued before you commence any works.
In most cases, planning permission will not be required for a standard loft conversion, where the roof space is not extended and does not exceed specified limits and conditions. A loft conversion in a house is considered to be a ‘permitted development’ under Section 3 of Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (TCPA) unless the following apply:
- the converted space is over 50m3 (for detached and semi-detached houses);
- the converted space is over 40m3 (for terraced houses);
- the converted space is extended beyond the plane of the existing roof slope on the front elevation;
- the converted space is higher than the highest part of the roof;
- the converted space is to include side-facing obscure-glazed windows;
- the converted space is to be set back less than 20cm from the original eaves;
- the property is either Listed or located in a specifically designated area such as a Conservation area.
Building Regulations Consent
Building Regulations will need to be complied with where building works are undertaken. This is a separate requirement to planning permission and will generally be required where a loft is converted into a liveable space such as a bedroom or a guest room, requiring extensive alterations. The purpose of the Building Regulations is to ensure that the structural strength of the new floors or partition walls is sufficient, that the stability of the existing structure is not compromised and that the new stairs are safely designed and fitted.
In addition to building regulations consent, it may be that you will also need to comply with the relevant fire safety regulations, as well as to serve notice on the adjoining owners subject to the Party Wall Act 1996. It is worth checking if you are required to do either one of the above with your conveyancer and building surveyor.
Make sure not to start any work until you have all of the necessary permissions, plans and paperwork and remember to obtain the completion certificate from the Building Control Body upon their inspection of your home.
One of the most standard but, at the same time, crucial requirements is to inform your insurance provider that you are undertaking conversion works to your property. This will ensure that your home cover is not affected. If you fail to give notice to your insurers, you risk invalidating your home insurance.
Further, in addition to your Conveyancing Solicitor checking and ensuring that all of the above legal requirements have been complied with and that a completion certificate has been issued by a Building Control Regulation, it is very important that they check with the Land Registry for any restrictive covenants that may be contained in old deeds. Whilst it is not very common for restrictive covenants to prohibit loft conversions, it is possible for certain provisions to require consent for any external extensions to be obtained from the original landowner. If your solicitor thinks there is a potential risk, they will recommend that you obtain indemnity insurance.
Disclaimer – our articles are designed to give you guidance and information. There is no substitute for proper direct advice, particularly as everyone’s circumstances are different. If anything in this article may affect you, please contact us for advice that is specific to your circumstances.