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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 9318
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I engaged a loft conversion company to build a rear dormer

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Hi. I engaged a loft conversion company to build a rear dormer on my terraced house. The representative and I discussed the fact that, as long as the rear dormer was under 40 cubic meters no planning permission would be required by the local council (Greenwich Council). I agreed to go ahead with the maximum size or dormer I could have without needing planning permission. When I received the quotes there was no mention of the size of the dormer so I e mailed him asking him to confirm the exact size of the rear dormer. Please see content of e mail below (I have the original - this is just copy and pasted here).
Hi Brian
Can you confirm what the overall dimensions of the rear extension will be?
He replied:
It should be almost the whole length of the back addition roof apart from 20cm but this is dependent on the architect and structural engineers drawings confirming that this is acceptable under permitted development of 40 cubic meters,
(I have the original e mail of this question answered).
At no time after this, while the plans and drawings were being prepared, did he mention, either verbally or in any correspondence, that the size of the dormer in the plans that were finally prepared had changed and the actual size of the dormer in the plans was 25 cubic meters (this does not cover almost the whole length of the back addition roof apart from 20cm - it is short by well over a meter). I have no experience of plans/structural drawings and don't understand them and, of course, I trusted him to build what I had originally paid for (which was a much larger structure) and feel it is wrong for the final plans to be so different from what I wanted and not be notified of those changes. The structure is now being built and I discover it is far to small. Can you advise.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Hi what are your questions about this please?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Is it wrong for the loft building company to change the agreed size of my extension to the house and prepare plans for a structure which is 38% smaller than agreed size without notifying me?
I paid £1500 for plans for an extension of just under 40 cubic meters. The company confirmed in an e mail this was the size the extension would be. There was no further correspondence from them regarding the sizebut, as noted abovem the final plans were 38% smaller than we had agreed and I had paid for.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Sorry, that should have read the final plans were for a structure which was 38% smaller than we had agreed and I had paid for.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Can you give me an idea of when you will be back online and be able to respond to me
Expert:  Jo C. replied 1 year ago.
Just to let you know, this isn't really my area so I've asked somebody else to look at it for you.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for letting me know. Can you let me know when someone else will be in touch with me?
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.
I have been asked to look at this for you. Initially, he saidthe extension will be almost the whole length of the existing building. You nowsay it’s 1 m short. Did an extension ofthe original size which was planned, require planning permission or not? Havethey given explanation as to why the extension is now smaller?Did you tell him categorically that you wanted to go ahead but only on the basis that planning permission was not required?What do you ultimately want to achieve?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi. Thank you for getting back to me.
You asked if, initially, he said the extension will be almost the whole length of the existing building and that, now, it is 1 m short.Yes, the original agreement (verbal) was that I wanted to go ahead with an extension that was fractionally less than 40 cubic meters (the whole length of the back addition apart from 20cm). The reason for this was that it would avoid any planning permission from Greenwich Council.I agreed via e mail I wanted the company to proceed but, when I received the quote, no sizes were mentioned therein so I sent an e mail asking for confirmation of the exact dimensions of the finished extension. (I have a copy of that return e mail). The reply was:
“It should be almost the whole length of the back addition roof apart from 20 cm but this is dependent on the architectural and structural engineers drawings confirming that this is acceptable under permitted development of 40 cubic meters.”
Following this I wasn’t informed of any amendments/changes in size to the extension and, not being familiar with structural drawings/plans accepted the company had drawn up plans for what we agreed. Now the extension is in construction and is 1m short (and 25 cubic meters rather than just under 40 cubic). It is to small.You asked if an extension of the original size which was planned, required planning permission or not?It did not require planning permission. It was agreed that it would be under 40 cubic meters which, under planning regulations for my local council, does not require planning permission.You asked if they have given an explanation as to why the extension is now smaller?I have not contacted them. I have only discovered today, as it is being built, that it is much smaller than originally agreed.
You asked if I told him categorically that you wanted to go ahead but only on the basis that planning permission was not required?
Yes, this was out agreement - I categorically did not want to get involved in planning permission and this was stated in the quotes he sent though. The extension was to be under 40 cubic meters for this reason. The structure currently being built is only 25 cubic meters – neither require planning permission.You asked what do I ultimately want to achieve?Because the extension being built from these plans is only 25 cubic meters it is too small for it's purpose. I am now having to have a structural engineer draw up a new set of drawings and calculations to make further changes to the extension and parts of the roof to open it up and create more space. Also I paid £1500 for drawings/plans which were not what I asked for. I have embarked on a project costing around 40K with incorrect plans provided by this company which do not conform to our agreement.
I hope this helps. Many thanks.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I have double checked with Greenwich Council today and they have confirmed that extensions under 40 cubic meters do not require planning permission.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.
Thanks. Your instructions seem clear enough. The builder and architect is in breach of contract and breach of the Supply of Goods and Services act as the goods and service are not fit for purpose. They also have to be of satisfactory quality. The extension is likely to be of satisfactory quality if it is built to the required standard but, if it isn’t big enough that it isn’t fit for purpose.There is case law which says that if the reduction in size is minor (the caselaw was re a swimming pool) then there is no major claim to damages/compensation. A reduction in size from 40 m² to 25 m² is not minor.You are entitled to have the work done at the size quoted and for the price quoted and if the current builder is not capable or willing to do it, you are entitled to get it done somewhere else and if that cost you more money, you are entitled to recover the extra cost from him. You would also be entitled to recover the cost of the plans.Fortunately, you have discovered this quite early in the process and it’s obviously going to be cheaper to get the whole job remedied now rather than wait until it was finished. If you had waited till it was finished but had noticed the major reduction in size quite early in the build, that could affect your right to compensation if you had ignored this and blindly let the builder continue.First thing to do is to stop the work and discuss this with the builder and if he will not put the job right, you now know what to do.Because the size does not seem to be noted in writing anywhere, there may be a problem if he denies that you ever said that you wanted 40 m². If this were to court, it would be decided on the balance of probabilities you are going to need something from the local authority which says that up to 40 m² does not require planning permission and that was the criteria.Can I clarify anything for you?Please do not forget to rate the service positive. It is an important part of the process.Best wishes.FES
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 9318
Experience: I have been practising for 30 years.
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Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Dear FES
Thank you very much for your reply. That has been really helpful.
There are just two things I would finally mention just to be clear.
I paid the original loft building company the full amount to prepare the plans/drawings but, by the time theses were complete and I was in receipt of them, due to various minor issues with the rep from the company, I did not continue on to sign the contract that followed. (I was in no way obliged or committed to do so but, obviously, it was assumed I would).
I am using another recommended builder to build the extension using the plans I paid for. Work was progressing well until it was obvious the extension was far too small.
To remedy this I will incur further expense with structural engineers and additional build costs.
The second point is your reference to the size not being noted in writing anywhere. When I noticed the size was not noted in the quote I e mailed and asked for confirmation of the size. He e mailed me the reply below. (I have these e mails).It should be almost the whole length of the back addition roof apart from 20cm but this is dependent on the architect and structural engineers drawings confirming that this is acceptable under permitted development of 40 cubic meters,I can also obtain the necessary details from Greenwich council regarding cubic meters and planning permission. I do apologise for what might seem like labouring the point but just wanted to make sure every aspect was covered.
Kind regards
Charlotte
Expert:  F E Smith replied 1 year ago.
If the builder is simply working to the architect’s plans, then the blame rests with the architect. You need to take this up with the architect. It would be the architect that you would take proceedings against firstly in respect of any replacement plans, secondly in respect of any extra building costs and thirdly in respect of the rectification.I suggest that you get a report from the new architect,which confirms that the original plan are defective. That would be useful evidence for any potential court case.Does that cover everything?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
That is excellent - thank you very much for your help. All the best.