unapproved renovations

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  1. #1
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    Default unapproved renovations

    Hi everyone,
    Hoping someone can give me some advice.
    Approx 3 yrs ago I had some renos done without council approval. This involved opening up the rear of the house to make an open plan kitchen/living. Some walls were removed, a support beam installed, new rear sliding door, new kitchen. It also involved raising the walls/roof at the rear to replace a skillion roof. There was no increase in floor space. The builder that did the work said that ideally we should get council approval but provided the neighbours didn't complain we should be right. My partner was dealing with the builder so I'm not 100% sure what was said.
    Now the problem is I am looking to sell & don't know how to deal with this. Should I try & speak to council about retropective approval? I don't really want to lie & say that I am not aware of any unapproved alterations. I am based in Sydney.
    I know the damage has probably allready done & I have dug myself into a hole.
    Keen for any suggestions/info.
    Cheers

  2. #2
    The Master's Apprentice Bedford's Avatar
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    Forget council at this stage, get a private building surveyor to have a look and guide you as to what may or may not be required.
    Posted by John2b, And no, BEVs are not going to save the planet, which doesn't need saving anyway.

  3. #3
    3K Club Member johnc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bedford View Post
    Forget council at this stage, get a private building surveyor to have a look and guide you as to what may or may not be required.

    What Bedford said, at this stage I wouldn't get to worried much of what you have done should not be an issue, the building surveyor will be able to tell you if a permit was needed and what the remedy is likely to be in your area

  4. #4
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    Thanx heaps Bedford & Johnc

    Karen

  5. #5
    Je pense, donc METRIX's Avatar
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    Unless you have increased the floor space, then there's nothing to worry about.

    Potential buyers MAY ask for an engineers certificate for any structural changes that may have been made, but this should be about it.

  6. #6
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    What renovations? call it "maintenance"

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moondog55 View Post
    What renovations? call it "maintenance"

  8. #8
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    For what its worth, most buyers and solicitors are pretty clued up these days and will ask for proof that any changes were legally done. They wont wish to be lumbered with someone elses illegal works. Getting a private building surveyor in to look at the works will just be wasteing your money as they cannot formalise any illegal works.
    The changes you have described are not exempt development and would have required Council approval. You'd be best getting an engineer to certifiy the structural side of the works and apply for a building certificate at Council which will legalise the works. Just play ignorant!

  9. #9
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    I sold my house in Sydney some 5 years ago that had unapproved work done. When i mentioned this to my solicitor his reply was " what house doesnt ". Hose was subsequently sold without any mentio by eaither party about work done.
    Also almost every house in my street now has unapproved work done.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the replies StephenR & REBBS
    Rebbs, if you don't mind me asking, what renos/work had been done when you sold your house?
    Also for anyone in NSW, is there a declaration that you have to make in the contract for sale stating whether you are aware of any unapproved alterations?
    Thanks heaps,
    Karen

  11. #11
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    Renos were extending lounge room and a large rear deck. We were concerned about this went we went to sell but the solicitor said not to worry about it. I am not aware of any declaration, but i would be speaking to a solicitor first and get their advice before you proceed, at least then you will have a clearer picture of where you stand. I went to an open house a few weeks back and the agent pointed out to me that the back room was an illegal addition and the house is now sold. From my experience it appears to be fairly common practice.

  12. #12
    Senior Member soundman's Avatar
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    There are lots of things "the other side" may try on.

    A mate of mine baught an old house years ago with the aim of doing it up and reselling.

    During settlement for his sale, the solicitor from the other side presented this " declaration" that had heaps of stuff on it, including guarantees that all work done to the house was approved and conforming with council records and there was no toxic waste, the roof dis not leak, there where no dead bodies in the cupboards and heaps of other stuff.
    None of it got signed, it basicly got returned, with a nice try mate but no cigar. The hose soll all the same no problem.
    I worked on that house, I saw the council records, the drainage plan was nothing like what was there or the remnants of the previous drainage system, doors, walls and steps in different places...and that is before we started.

    some of these older houses, the council have very poor records about what exists, some of them never looked like the plans submitred to and signed off by council, and hell lots of these old houses have alteration after renovation going back decades and past several sales and owners, that the council knows nothing about.

    cheers
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  13. #13
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    Default Unapproved renovations and insurance

    The latest saga is Insurance companies are getting smarter on renovations/extensions and denying claims.

    Unapproved extensions or renovations = no insurance for those areas. If its not on the council plan, its not insured. We are not talking here about a storage area under the house or a bar/BBQ area but extra rooms, extra bathrooms, pergolas, toilets, more living areas, decks and such that would need council approval. If Unapproved extensions or renovations may have caused or contributed to damage or loss = no insurance. Example strong wind blows down tree which falls on unapproved pergola which then tears side off house - damage to house (and pergola) will not be covered where damage would not have occurred but for the existence of the unauthorised pergola - which shouldn't have been there in the first place.

    If work that should have been performed by licensed contractors (plumbing, drainage, electrical etc) but wasn't = insurance null and void. Easy out for insurance on this one.

    So just be careful buying a house with or doing your own unapproved renovations. You can buy and do whatever you like, and sell a house with unapproved extensions but it may come back to bite you in the future. Its a bit like doing modifications to your cars suspension, brakes or engine and expecting the insurance company to cover it without notifying them of the additional risk. Bet they don't cover it!

    I always say - You never know how good insurance is until you need to claim on it, and insure what you can't afford to lose.

  14. #14
    Senior Member soundman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lawriet View Post
    The latest saga is Insurance companies are getting smarter on renovations/extensions and denying claims.

    Unapproved extensions or renovations = no insurance for those areas. If its not on the council plan, its not insured. We are not talking here about a storage area under the house or a bar/BBQ area but extra rooms, extra bathrooms, pergolas, toilets, more living areas, decks and such that would need council approval. If Unapproved extensions or renovations may have caused or contributed to damage or loss = no insurance. Example strong wind blows down tree which falls on unapproved pergola which then tears side off house - damage to house (and pergola) will not be covered where damage would not have occurred but for the existence of the unauthorised pergola - which shouldn't have been there in the first place.

    If work that should have been performed by licensed contractors (plumbing, drainage, electrical etc) but wasn't = insurance null and void. Easy out for insurance on this one.

    So just be careful buying a house with or doing your own unapproved renovations. You can buy and do whatever you like, and sell a house with unapproved extensions but it may come back to bite you in the future. Its a bit like doing modifications to your cars suspension, brakes or engine and expecting the insurance company to cover it without notifying them of the additional risk. Bet they don't cover it!

    I always say - You never know how good insurance is until you need to claim on it, and insure what you can't afford to lose.
    The insurance issue is a valid one, but to say that you are uninsured unless it is on the council plan is a bit of an exageration.

    I doubt that there would be many houses that completly agree with what is on the council plan and realy people would be surprised how little detail council ( and other government agencies) has......AND the insurance companies know this as well as anybody.

    Not that you should expect to get away with cover on a whole western wing built on a shady........but minor alterations should not represent an issue........just like with motor vehicle insurance, most companies cover a certain $ figure of unlisted accessories.
    In aprang a couple of years ago the insurance company replaced an unlisted bullbar and aftermarket wheel & tyre, no problems.

    Generally insurance companies are more concerned with safety and sound building methods more than anything.

    AND

    Generally if an insurance company is going to deny a claim they need to be able to show cause, consequence or underinsurance.

    Like car insurance, there are good and bad insurance companies.......less and less are insurance companies looking for any possible reason to deny a claim.......word gets around and that does not sell polocies

    If a building has been valued and insured as built, and there are no causal issues I doubt thay would have a leg (or the will) to stand on refusing your claim.

    It does pay to read your polocy and know the detail of what is insured.

    cheers
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by soundman View Post
    The insurance issue is a valid one, but to say that you are uninsured unless it is on the council plan is a bit of an exageration.

    I doubt that there would be many houses that completly agree with what is on the council plan and realy people would be surprised how little detail council ( and other government agencies) has......AND the insurance companies know this as well as anybody.

    Not that you should expect to get away with cover on a whole western wing built on a shady........but minor alterations should not represent an issue........just like with motor vehicle insurance, most companies cover a certain $ figure of unlisted accessories.
    In aprang a couple of years ago the insurance company replaced an unlisted bullbar and aftermarket wheel & tyre, no problems.

    Generally insurance companies are more concerned with safety and sound building methods more than anything.

    AND

    Generally if an insurance company is going to deny a claim they need to be able to show cause, consequence or underinsurance.

    Like car insurance, there are good and bad insurance companies.......less and less are insurance companies looking for any possible reason to deny a claim.......word gets around and that does not sell polocies

    If a building has been valued and insured as built, and there are no causal issues I doubt thay would have a leg (or the will) to stand on refusing your claim.

    It does pay to read your polocy and know the detail of what is insured.

    cheers
    We have a had our house about two years. It was built int he 80's

    When we went to buy the house I asked the agent if there was any work not passed by council. His answer was. Do you want to buy the bloody thing or not.

    Yes we bought it. Next I went to council to get the plans for some extension work. Low behold the plans now compared to the 80's, well the CAD standards are erm, the plans are a freaking sketch and none of the work post new construction are on the plans.

    Yeah well Ive pretty much finished an 'as constructed'. Council know it was there prior to my purchase because it would show up in their aerials.

    Really, Insurance can say no even though something is built to Australian standards? I doubt it. Half the time councils don't have half the plans if the council hasnt burnt down or lost the records half the time.

    Have you checked to see what the council actually has one record by seeking plans?

    And why we're at it when are we going to have a national CAD standards because if your a tradesmen trying to read the multiple piles of shizen in their various styles, its actually easy to make a mistake. Ive even had a builder throw $40000 worth of plans on the rubbish pile and tell me what I want to do because the lack of detail was immense. That was 6 years ago.

    Ive just sent a friend to another engineer because the first specified 800 wide footings; the second 400mm wide. He saved $1800 just in concrete.

    Its crazy; its wrong and its all out of hand. Maybe insurance should be compulsed to get out of their call centre and actually do some work?

    Insurance is always going to avoid paying out.
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  16. #16
    1K Club Member autogenous's Avatar
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    Actually anyone who has had an insurance company not pay an insurance payout let me know and why so Im not with them

    Sure, if you built below the 1 in 100 year flood line your asking for trouble
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    We live in an ex-housing commission house. The housing commission from the 1950s was a law unto itself and as far as I can tell they never lodged plans with the council, or any drainage with Barwon Water. As we have done work to the house we have found a lot of original work that would never pass muster today, for instance top plates taking a rafter load that are lapped and NOT located on top of a stud, noggins located not halfway up the wall but located solely to nail the old fibrous plaster. We also found about a dozen major mistakes where work had been done by Ted's grandfather (a builder) that have been fixed. There was an extension built about 30 years ago and I have no idea whether or not Ted's parents got a permit for it...he thinks they did but the downpipes and drainage is non-compliant, far fewer downpipes than required.

    You get the gist. We have done some structural maintenance and repair works that are compliant under today's rules but unless there's a detailed plan showing changes from the original, they would be invisible.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member soundman's Avatar
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    Well.....compliance with building codes is another matter all together.

    It was not untill after 1974, cyclone tracy that tie down and bracing was introduced as a requirement nationaly and frame strength was a real consideration..

    While there have been framing codes and the like going back to the fifties, how much of it was compulsory or enforced by inspection.

    We have a sucession of improvements and tightening of building codes and enforcement.

    Buildings are long lived things, and a 50, 60 or 70 year old house is hardly considered old.
    Anything built before WW2 is likley to be completly unregulated and records are probably pretty sketchy if they exist at all.
    After WW2 1945, they where more concerned about building enough houses fast enough, materials shortages, and rationing, than building standards.
    In the 60's a single page hand drawn "plan" was just about all that was required for a building permit....hell the bank wanted to know more than the council.
    and it rolls on.
    In many places, it was not till the 80's that we saw any sort of serious documentation and inspection of domestic housing.

    My old man started an extension to our itialian war reperations, semi prefab housing conmmission house in arround 1967...I have all the documents.......such that they are...they consist of simple hand drawn pencil plans with very little detail......and what was built only vaguely resembles what was drawn.

    As for the pine housing commission house.....OH hell.....scarf joints wraped in steel tape in every single rafter.....(no component over 9 feet).....nothing plumb, nothing straight........and the frames.....take the sheeting off one side and they flap like a tarp.

    remember no bracing sheets and no tiedown as we now know it.

    Some of the post war housing was only desiged to last 20 years


    So, if new work was done anything like to modern standards, in many cases the building may be stronger and safer after the "unaproved renovation" than before, and thus could be argued as reducing risk from an insurance point of view.

    Back to automotive paralells, it is very rare for claims to be rejected unless, those alterations increase risk, declared, inspected or not.


    cheers
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  19. #19
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    In Brisbane there are no plumbing records before 1974 when they were all destroyed in the big flood that year.

    Also what and how do councils keep records? - do they scan plans now days? The council returned all our plans 7 years after the house was finished so unless they were scanned and stored digitally they don't have copies anymore.
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  20. #20
    1K Club Member paddyjoy's Avatar
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    Our council scans all plans/documents, they even give you a discount on fees if you scan them and provide them on a cd when applying for development approva!

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