Q. I viewed a house over the weekend that I have fallen in love with but have just found out today that they never got planning permission for the extension they built at the rear of the house. I am devastated by this news as I really thought I had found the ‘one’. Is there anything I can do or should I just walk away?

A. It’s amazing how many home owners decide to extend their properties and in most cases do a very good job of it, but don’t follow the correct formalities and comply with planning and building regulations. Looking at the bigger picture when deciding to do something like this is imperative, not only because of it causing problems when it comes to selling as is clearly happening now but also just the sheer safety aspect of this kind of construction, rules and regulations on planning are there to protect us.  The rules are quite simply, if you build or extend a property without planning permission, it is possible for action to be taken against you and in, extreme cases; you might be forced to take the house or extension down. Clearly it is not a good idea to ignore such rules. However there is what is known as the ‘Four year rule’. If you build something without planning permission and the local planning authority do not do anything about it, after four years it is not liable to any action, although this rule does not apply to listed buildings. So depending on how long ago the extension was done, and considering how much you undoubtedly love the house it is still a consideration, although do consider the fact that you will want to sell one day yourself and this whole drama will once again reappear. One way of reassuring yourself about the extension is to pay for a structural engineers report on the property; although this would be costly it’s well worth it in the long run if you think this is the house for you. At least then if there is any structural problems with the building this would be highlighted putting you in a better position to make a decision to move forward with the purchase or not. If it were to be deemed ok by the surveyor It would also give you peace of mind that when you eventually come to sell the property you could produce the report to reassure any would be buyers, that the building is structurally sound and has been given a clean bill of health by a structural surveyor.