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An illegal conversion

THE QUESTION

I’ve come across a house split into two flats, but without obtaining planning permission. I’ve been told it’s been more than four years since the conversion was done and the current owners have evidence of the work taking place at that time.

If I buy the property and apply for planning permission will I automatically get it or is likely that I will be required to convert it back to one house?

THE ANSWER

No, you won’t automatically get approval, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to obtain it.

First you will have to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness (CoL), which is retrospective planning approval. However, nothing is automatic; if the planners don’t like what has been done they won’t grant it and, yes, they can order it to be returned to one house, if they choose to.

You will need to provide proof of its continuous as flats over the period they require.

A chat with the planners before you commit to buy to get their view on your future application would be advisable. They won’t give you a definite ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but they will probably give you an indication.

You cannot buy this property using a mortgage (nor can any other interested buyer) as lenders don’t give mortgages to illegal conversions. You will need to buy with cash, or bridging finance, get your CoL, then put it on a mortgage when the property is legal.

There are thousands of these properties across the country and they provide an opportunity. However, you need to make sure you are not over-paying for a property that is cash buyer territory only. The seller is in a weak position because he can only sell to non-mortgage-dependent buyers.

 

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