My question is do we have reasonable grounds for complaint to our architect that he should have known that a conversion of 2 flats to one dwelling was material change of use and what the implications were for building regulations?

Some background…
We bought 2 flats that were converted from a detached house approximately 40 years ago. The whole building is 100 years old.

As we wanted to convert the 2 flats back into 1 house, with the owners of both flats permission, we obtained planning permission before purchasing the 2 flats.

Once the sale of both properties had gone through, we appointed an architect to assist with the conversion which involved removing one of the front doors, the upstairs kitchen, building 2 new staircases in place of the old ones, a new rear extension and remodelling to allow the house to work as a large family home.

He produced initial plans, applied for planning permission for the new extension and produced detailed drawings including fire safety, wiring, plumbing and detailed drawings for the contruction of the new extension with our structural engineer. He also produced the tender pack. We had discussions with him on building regulations around fire safety and what doors were required to be fire doors, and on the location of the stair case, and there was mention of how the construction of the new extension was to conform to building regulations and so assumed that all was covered with building regs.

We have now hired a main contractor and are not using the architect to manage the remainder of the build.

As soon as building control came on site to inspect the site and the proposed build, they stated that as the work was a conversion of two dwellings into one, it qualified as a material change of use and therefore we have to bring all the inulation up to current standars, including adding ground floor insulation and exterior wall insulation. None of this was in the tender or had been quoted for and will add several 10s of thousands to the cost.

He admits that if he was doing a barn conversion or new build he would have taken all of that into account.

Also, even if we do have a valid complaint, is there any point in pursuing? ie would there be any monetary compensation, ie refund of part of fees for a job not done correctly at the minimum. If we had known the costs of this during the planning and tender we would have dramatically reduced the scope of the work.

  • Adam

    An architect should have a firm grounding of what is required to design and safely construct a building. I’m sure the Architect in question approached his appointment with reasonable care and application but not everybody can know everything. If the architect has overlooked an important element of the design and the repercussions are financially damaging to you there could be a case for making a claim on their professional indemnity insurance. Those sort of affairs tend to be laborious and ultimately unfulfilling. We all know what a pig insurers become when you want something from them don’t we!

    A more pertinent question at this point might be this: Were the plans passed by the building control department prior to the commencement of work? If they were why was the issue of the insulation not raised at this juncture?

    If you didn’t get the plans pre-approved then that is a moot point. If they were you may have a grievance to bring to bear against the building regs department for not stipulating clearly the insulation requirements.

    The truth might be that the blame lies somewhere inbetween all the parties involved. Its a difficult situation to find yourself in and I wish you luck in getting it resolved.

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