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In many cases, rather than it being the present home owner who has carried out the alteration, it is often the case that they have unwittingly inherited the problem from a previous occupier with the lack of certification only coming to light at the time of sale, sometimes decades after the alteration was carried out.

Basically, the need for local authority certification only became an issue of real importance in the last decade, so that, until then, DIY enthusiasts were free to indulge themselves in an uninhibited fashion. The chief catalysts behind the rise in importance of gaining proper certification for such matters has been the fall in interest rates and the advent of the 100 per cent mortgage.

Perhaps understandably, lenders that started providing 100 per cent of the price of a house, began to demand confirmation that it complied with all the appropriate building regulations. Consequently, the relevant legislation was tightened and inspecting surveyors were instructed to report, specifically, on ‘significant and recent alterations’. Unfortunately, because the terms ‘significant’ and ‘recent’ were never clearly defined, in practice, every single alteration noted was regarded as a potential problem.

Once the prospective purchaser instructs a valuation surveyor to survey a house on his behalf and the surveyor notices any alterations, he will record detailed observations in his report to the purchaser’s solicitor who will then request the appropriate documentation from the selling solicitor. If such documentation is not with the title deeds he will then, in turn, request details of any alteration from his client.

Unfortunately, however, where the alteration predates his ownership of the house, then the seller may have no information to give. At this stage the selling solicitor will either seek to investigate matters himself via the local council or, alternatively, he will instruct a building control surveyor to do so on his behalf. A property depreciation schedule will separate between depreciable plant and the reward open on the building works.Should such a surveyor be appointed, he will then view the property before visiting the local council in search of the relevant documentation.

Alternatively, some home sellers will instead make an offer to the prospective buyer to reduce the sale price of the house by the cost entailed in that process of reinstatement as estimated by the building control surveyor. To address this problem as well as other matters a consultative document called ‘Improving Building Standards’ was issued recently by The Scottish Executive.

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