Hi we live in a house that has been converted into 2 maisonettes. Upstairs has converted the loft without notifying us, including putting in a permanent staircase with no door as fire protection and hasn’t had anyone check what he has done to ensure they meet regulations. We have to have joint buildings insurance which he arranges being the freeholder. Does this invalidate our insurance?
In principal the works themselves should not automatically invalidate the Buildings Insurance policy. However, there are other issues to consider which could allow an Insurer to wriggle out of a claim completely if they wanted to, or to reduce the claim settlement value. Both scenarios could be financially crippling for the joint owners.
Whether the work has been done under Permitted Development Rights or a Full Planning Application, it will require Building Regulation Approval if the loft/attic is being converted into a liveable space. In such circumstances the work should be overseen by a Local Authority Building Control Body or other independent Building Control Body, and signed off at the end as being completed, and in accordance with Building Regulation requirements. Without formal sign off of the works the insurer may consider the structure as “incomplete” and could look to avoid paying a claim as a result. It would be very harsh on the occupiers of the ground floor, but it could happen. Alternatively, if the Insurer has not been advised of the increased rebuilding cost of the property to take it account the cost of the new loft extension, in the event of a claim they could seek to reduce the claim settlement value as a result of under-insurance, leaving the two owners to make up any financial difference out of their own pocket.
It would be prudent to discuss the situation with the Insurer directly for their opinion, and get them to confirm their position in writing to avoid any ambiguity should a claim arise in the future. Better still get the other owner to get the right paperwork!
Peter Richardson (Director at Build-Zone)