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I bought and completely refurbished my UK (Midlands) house 10 years ago. This included removing the problematic old staircase and fitting a spiral staircase. In total, the only building regulations required were for the replacement windows and this staircase. I have notes of my conversations with the building inspector at the time, as I was stressing about the diameter of the stairs versus the number of rooms it serves, but he said it would be fine as long as the windows were large enough for fire escape egress. No other points were raised.

10 years later and I am selling the property and have someone eager to buy. In collating all of my documents, I noticed I didn't have a building regulation completion certificate. I queried this with my solicitor who told me to chase the council, which I did, and they arranged for an inspector to visit the property, which baffled me as I thought I just needed a copy of the certificate. But it turns out a certificate was never issued, and now the inspector has visited and said the staircase 'simply needs to be moved', because the head height between the second step and the ceiling is too small.

Unfortunately, as this is now well after the fact, it would require significant structural building changes to do this. The original builder who did the work for me is baffled, as he recalled the inspector (the same one) visiting and never raising any issues, and he said he wouldn't have issued a final invoice until all the building regulations were signed off. Also, the Building Inspection dept. usually follow up on 'open cases' 6 months after the fact, and this never happened.

I found this quote from the HOA website (emphasis mine):

"In terms of building regulation compliance, the reality is that the council usually will have taken action within 12 months of the work being completed, although it is open to them to serve a dangerous structure notice at any time if there is reason to. Otherwise, if a council issued a notice for lack of building regulations after the 12 month period it could be rebutted."

So my question is: if the building inspection didn't raise this 10 years ago when it was done, is it reasonable for them to raise the issue now? And/or can I push back against this?

I asked my solicitor about an indemnity, but they said that's no longer possible as the council have been 'put on notice'.

(Also, the purchaser has suggested he's not bothered about it, but the building inspector has said he would 'proactively advise no one to buy' my house, and that the mortgage company may not loan without the completion certificate)

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It's dependable on a couple of bits of information. Do you have or can you ascertain a copy of the work complete documentation? If so it would be a case of getting the work done and claiming the costs back through a small claims court.

If you don't have the documentation you will hit the 'ignorance does not excuse you from the law' wall attitude from the council and the small claims court.

If you aren't in a rush the alternative where there may be hope is through a complaint to the council and letting them highlight where they dropped the ball. They HAVE to respond to you. If they do not - approach your local mp and ask them to bring it to parliament for a decision. Your MP is the ONLY person who can legally start this process for you. It may even be worth while visiting them to get some advice because ultimately they manage the council and can get stuff done faster.

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  • When you say 'work complete documentation', you mean when the work was originally completed by the builder? I have the original Building Regs plan number from the council (i.e. when the works were commenced back in 2012), and I will have a final invoice from him in 2012. But it does seem like most of this (building regulations discussion) was done over the phone or in person. I sent them emails back in 2012, but they never responded.
    – indextwo
    Apr 22 at 18:58
  • Yes sir. If you can prove that the work was complete it's far more 'probable' that it was signed off but there was an administration error etc from their side. In civil law (which this is) the letter of the law is that you must prove beyond probability, while criminal law you have to prove beyond doubt. So essentially its a silver bullet for getting it done for free, which is really what they should be doing anyway. It's going to be a ball ache so I'd suggest getting a good contract brief to look at it. There is only about 4 specialists in the UK if you don't mind spending the money @indextwo
    – Barb
    Apr 22 at 19:02
  • Can you provide a source for the part about one's MP and Parliament being involved? Apr 22 at 20:04
  • Yessir! parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-an-mp-or-lord/… I recommend attending your local MP surgery from off this list and asking them to write a 'Letter to Parliment' on your behalf. You'll receive a House of Commons acknowledgement letter printed on badge paper headed with the crowns emblem. The rest will fall down hill
    – Barb
    Apr 22 at 20:08
  • I'm sorry, but that's simply not true. A link from the website that you link makes this clear: "Some issues are not the direct responsibility of UK Parliament or the UK government. In these instances, you should first contact either your local council or your nearest Citizens Advice Bureau before considering contacting your MP." Enforcement of building regulations is a council matter. That said, there's no harm in contacting your MP; but they may just tell you to contact the council. Apr 23 at 9:46

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