If their ar­chi­tect has walked away, should we?

Send your prop­erty prob­lems to: Prop­erty Clinic, The Daily Tele­graph, 111 Buck­ing­ham Palace Road, Lon­don SW1W 0DT email prop­[email protected] tele­graph.co.uk

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We agreed to pur­chase a re­cently com­pleted barn con­ver­sion and ar­ranged for a sur­vey. The re­sults gave the prop­erty a sound bill of health, with a com­ple­tion cer­tifi­cate be­ing is­sued by the lo­cal author­ity build­ing con­trol last Septem­ber.

But our so­lic­i­tor then dis­cov­ered that the project’s ar­chi­tect had not is­sued his com­ple­tion cer­tifi­cate. The ven­dor told us that he and the ar­chi­tect had fallen out. As a re­sult, the ar­chi­tect had not seen the de­vel­op­ment through and re­fuses even to dis­cuss the prop­erty. Our so­lic­i­tor says that with­out this cer­tifi­cate the prop­erty is un­mort­gage­able and strongly ad­vises us to with­draw.

We have con­sulted other ar­chi­tects and they say they can­not is­sue a ret­ro­spec­tive cer­tifi­cate; other ex­perts warn us that the re­sale of this barn will be ex­tremely dif­fi­cult.

Surely there must be a way of sell­ing an at­trac­tive, solidly built house that sat­is­fies lo­cal author­ity build­ing reg­u­la­tions but is de­nied a piece of pa­per be­cause of a spat be­tween the present owner and his ar­chi­tect?

Lorna Vestey writes:

There are ba­si­cally two types of cer­tifi­cate is­sued by ar­chi­tects. The first cer­ti­fies that var­i­ous stages of build­ing works are fin­ished. The sec­ond type, of­ten called an “ar­chi­tects’ cer­tifi­cate” but in re­al­ity a “Pro­fes­sional Con­sul­tants’ Cer­tifi­cate”, is nor­mally in a stan­dard for­mat is­sued by the Coun­cil of Mort­gage Lenders (CML) and is used where there is no build­ing war­ranty such as that pro­vided by the Na­tional House Build­ing Coun­cil. Your so­lic­i­tor is en­tirely cor­rect as to the im­por­tance of this.

Pro­fes­sional li­a­bil­ity may ex­ist if some­thing goes wrong which could rea­son­ably have been ev­i­dent at in­spec­tion, so ret­ro­spec­tive CML cer­tifi­cates are sel­dom is­sued by ar­chi­tects on build­ings with which they have not been in­volved. The Royal In­sti­tute of Bri­tish Ar­chi­tects, for ex­am­ple, warns mem­bers of the po­ten­tial per­ils of do­ing so and sug­gests jus­ti­fi­able qual­i­fi­ca­tions to such a cer­tifi­cate – which might ren­der it in­suf­fi­cient for a mort­gage lender.

I would tell the ven­dor, through your so­lic­i­tor, that you can­not buy the prop­erty with­out the CML cer­tifi­cate and nei­ther is any­one else likely to do so. Ask him to use RIBA’s dis­pute res­o­lu­tion func­tion (020 7580 5533); only he as the ar­chi­tect’s client can do this. We do not know when the dis­agree­ment oc­curred but the orig­i­nal ar­chi­tect might is­sue the cer­tifi­cate if the dis­pute could be solved.

Al­ter­na­tively, there are Royal In­sti­tu­tion of Char­tered Sur­vey­ors build­ing sur­vey­ors who have a sig­nif­i­cant part of their busi­ness based in this and sim­i­lar ac­tiv­ity, and who may un­der­take in­spec­tion and is­sue of a ret­ro­spec­tive CML cer­tifi­cate (0870 333 1600 or www.rics­firms.com). Lorna Vestey is a for­mer part­ner of a blue-chip Lon­don es­tate agency.


I am about to ask a ques­tion I guess ev­ery­body is ask­ing. Do you think in­ter­est rates will con­tinue to in­crease in the way they have in the past year or do you think the rise will slow down and pos­si­bly even go into re­verse?

My boyfriend and I are about to pur­chase our first flat to­gether. A month ago we thought tak­ing out a two-year fixed mort­gage was the bet­ter fi­nan­cial op­tion. Now, how­ever, we are won­der­ing whether we should take out a tracker mort­gage for two years.

Is it best to tie your­self into a mort­gage for two years with a rate at 6.3 per cent, or wiser to ride the wave with a tracker and hope that, even if in­ter­est rates do in­crease once more, it still works out cheaper?

James Cot­ton writes:

This is def­i­nitely a pop­u­lar ques­tion at the mo­ment and one to which I wish I knew the an­swer! First, I think it is safe to say that in­ter­est rates should not con­tinue ris­ing as they have done re­cently. Since Au­gust last year, the Bank of Eng­land has in­creased rates five times, by a to­tal of 1.25 per cent. The gen­eral con­sen­sus is that while one more rise is a pos­si­bil­ity, we are now at, or at least near, the peak of the cur­rent cy­cle.

How­ever, the re­cent stock mar­ket volatil­ity shows that it is dif­fi­cult to pre­dict ex­actly what is go­ing to hap­pen in the fu­ture. It is there­fore best to choose a mort­gage deal that suits your own cir­cum­stances.

As first-time buy­ers, you may sim­ply pre­fer to get a fixed rate just so you know ex­actly what your pay­ments will be each month – for a lot of peo­ple, this cer­tainty is worth pay­ing a higher rate. How­ever, if your monthly fi­nances are in good health and bud­get­ing is not a con­cern, a tracker may work out cheaper if rates move as ex­pected.

Over­all, there is not a great deal of dif­fer­ence be­tween the two at the mo­ment. Bri­tan­nia for ex­am­ple has a two-year fixed rate at 5.49 per cent with a £999 ar­range­ment fee, while Na­tion­wide has a two-year tracker at 5.38 per cent with a £1,499 fee.

What is most im­por­tant is that you con­sider your bud­get, think which type of deal you would be most com­fort­able with and shop around to get the best deal avail­able. James Cot­ton is a mort­gage spe­cial­ist at L & C (0800 953 0304; www.lcplc. co.uk)


The out­side edge of the damp course in our 20-year-old house is cov­ered by a ce­ment bridge, which is com­ing away in var­i­ous places, and makes the house look a bit tatty. I would like to make good and tidy it up but com­mon sense tells me that it should not have been cov­ered in the first place. All the nearby houses have their damp course bridged in the same way. Should I go ahead, or chip the whole lot off?

David Snell writes:

Old-fash­ioned or bi­tu­mi­nous felt damp-proof cour­ses needed to be sand­wiched be­tween two fairly sub­stan­tial beds of mor­tar, one be­low and one above. This of­ten led to the mor­tar joint at the damp proof course be­ing very much thicker than for the rest of the wall. To dis­guise this, many brick­lay­ers opted to make some sort of fea­ture of it by cre­at­ing a weath­er­struck or slop­ing joint to mask the damp proof course it­self.

No real harm can come of this but over time the very thick­ness and ex­po­sure of this mor­tar joint means that it will be­gin to fall away. The trou­ble is that try­ing to re­place or patch it up will leave the re­pairs as a hostage to the first frosts. Chip­ping it all off will not do any harm at all, but you might need to rake the joint back above and be­low the damp proof course in or­der to get a flush point. David Snell is con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor to ‘Home­build­ing & Ren­o­vat­ing’ mag­a­zine and au­thor of ‘Build­ing Your Own Home’, avail­able at £25 plus p&p from 0870 155 7222.


We have had our plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion re­jected by a “locum” act­ing for the lo­cal coun­cil on the grounds that it is “out of keep­ing with the area”, and adds an un­ac­cept­able 70 per cent mass to the house. We live in a com­mu­nity of nine houses in a private road with all dwellings sur­rounded by dense trees and not vis­i­ble to our neigh­bours or the pub­lic.

Most of the houses in our lane have had ex­ten­sive de­vel­op­ments, while our plan is much more mod­est. The plan­ner said that “prece­dent is not a con­sid­er­a­tion” and what oth­ers in his de­part­ment have al­lowed in the vicin­ity is ir­rel­e­vant to him.

We will ob­vi­ously go to ap­peal but be­lieve the plan­ning de­part­ment will close ranks. Should we con­sider the courts as a more ap­pro­pri­ate route to try to re­verse an in­jus­tice? How can one man act as judge and jury?

John Win­ter writes:

Plan­ning com­mit­tees usu­ally have too much work, so they del­e­gate less con­tentious ap­pli­ca­tions to the plan­ning of­fi­cer deal­ing with the case. As much of the de­ci­sion mak­ing is purely sub­jec­tive, it will rest on the per­sonal view­point of the plan­ning of­fi­cer. This one per­son does have to act as “judge and jury”. It is bad luck that the par­tic­u­lar of­fi­cer deal­ing with your case was un­sym­pa­thetic to your views.

I do not un­der­stand your com­ment about the plan­ning de­part­ment “clos­ing ranks”. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, ap­peals are con­sid­ered by in­tel­li­gent peo­ple who un­der­stand the plan­ning sys­tem and have the power, in­deed the duty, to is­sue a de­ci­sion. Courts, on the other hand, are not so good at deal­ing with sub­jec­tive is­sues: they can ques­tion the lo­cal author­ity’s process, but, as that seems to have been sat­is­fac­tory in ad­min­is­tra­tive terms, they can do lit­tle to help you. They do not have the power to re­verse a legally made plan­ning re­fusal. Have faith in the ap­peal process. John Win­ter runs his own ar­chi­tec­tural prac­tice.

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