Property Clinic

Extension regulations, right-of-way and building extension costs

Q My wife and I have gone sale agreed on a house in south Co Dublin which was being sold by a financial institution due to a landlord being in financial distress. The house is listed as a four-bedroom semi-detached home with one of the bedrooms downstairs at the back of the house in an extension. It now appears that the extension does not meet the building regulations and did not have the required planning permission.

We do not know what to do. Should we pull out of the deal and ask for our deposit back because of the poor extension or should we try and negotiate the price down based on a reasonable price for a three-bedroom home and factor in the need to invest money in bringing the extension up to the required standards? Also, is it feasible someone could object to the extension for not having planning permission and that we would be required to take it down?

A It may be some consolation to know that this is not an unusual problem. If the extension is to the rear of the property and does not exceed 40sq m (430sq ft), it will generally not require planning permission. There are height considerations and conditions relating to the remaining size of the back garden. All extensions, whether planning permission was required or not, should comply with the building regulations that were current at the time of construction. Most houses more than five years' old would not comply with current building regulations but the important issue is that they would have had to comply with the regulations as existed at the time of their construction.

If someone complains to the planning authority about the extension, eg a neighbour, the planning authority will issue a warning letter within six weeks. You would then have four weeks to respond. The authority will then investigate and make a decision. The decision could be as simple as making you apply for permission for the extension but could go as far as instructing you to remove the extension. The latter is unlikely unless the extension is very large or particularly poorly constructed. Expert advice from an architect or planning consultant is essential before you decide how or if to proceed with the purchase.


If you are borrowing for the purchase, the valuer will have to advise the bank that there is an issue with planning permission and the property will be valued as a three-bedroom, not four-bedroom, house.

I would recommend that you get written advice from a chartered quantity surveyor on the likely costs involved in making the extension comply with the building regulations before you try to renegotiate the purchase price. The financial institution selling the property will know that this issue will be raised whoever is buying the house so they may be sensible enough to allow a reduction in the price if you have professional opinions to show them on the planning, compliance and anticipated remedial costs.

Simon Stokes is chairman of the residential property professional group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland

Q Our neighbour has not used their gate to gain access to a joint lane for at least 13 years. They had right-of-way access to this lane at one point and they used it. Do they still have right of way – even though they have not used it in all this time? Does right-of-way cease? Does it make a difference that their gate is still there but not used? I know right-of-way issues are very tricky but I would be interested in your opinion.

A It is assumed from the information provided that you and your neighbour are the only parties with an interest or rights over the lane. You do not say if the lane is your property, ie you are the owner, freehold or leasehold, in the entire lane and that your neighbour has/had a right-of-way over your property. You describe it as a joint lane, which suggests that each of you may have title, freehold or leasehold, in half/part of the lane adjacent to your respective properties and each half/part is subject to a right-of-way in favour of the other party. It is likely that in either situation the right of way still exists, in particular if it is included in the deeds and/or registered on the respective folios in the Land Registry.

However, legal advice is necessary to determine the current status of the right-of-way. To dispossess your neighbour of their right-of-way it may be necessary to establish adverse possession, which requires specific conditions – the existence of the gate may be relevant. And if the right-of-way in favour of your neighbour is essential for access to their property or to get access to the public road from their property, this factor will be significant in the event of litigation.

My advice is for you to consult with your solicitor to determine your next steps.

Patrick Shine is a chartered geomatics surveyor and member of the SCSI

Q My husband and I bought a three-bedroom home which was built in the 1970s. We would like to put on an extension and will need to undertake some renovations before we move in. Could you tell us what’s involved and give some indication of the costs please?

A My first piece of advice is to set out what it is you want from the project, ie identify and list your requirements, prioritise them and note how much you have to spend. Next you need to obtain the services of design professionals such as an architect or building surveyor.

They will make the most of the space you have and will advise on whether planning permission is required – generally minor changes, rear extensions under 40sq m (430sq ft) are exempt. They will also advise on the design and once this has been agreed a chartered quantity surveyor will then put real costs on the renovation and/or extension. The surveyor will also organise a list of suitable builders, tender the works, manage costs and guide same through to completion. In terms of choosing a builder, it is often a good idea to take a look at other projects they have completed if possible. Your decision on which builder to appoint should not be based solely on the lowest price but rather quality of previous work and reputation.

In terms of costs, it really depends on how far you want to go with the renovation and extension to the property. Many people undertaking projects similar to yours also decide to upgrade other parts of their property which would include adding insulation to the floors, attic and external walls, re-wiring, upgrading the heating and plumbing system, new doors, joinery, kitchen, sanitary ware, decoration and external patios.

The cost for renovation works can vary in the order of €60 to €95 per square foot depending on the requirements and specifications. A single-storey ground-level extension could vary in cost between €140 to €200 per square foot, depending on varying items such as architectural design features, the extent of glass, heights of walls, overhangs, quality of kitchen units, bathrooms etc. To give an example, refurbishment and extension of a typical detached three-bedroom house, of 102sq m (1,100sq ft), built in the 1970s, with roof, walls, structure in good condition which requires an upgrade with a small extension could cost in the region of €90,000-€130,000.

Remember that if you extend your house your insurance reinstatement value will increase and should be adjusted upon handover.

Andrew Nugent is a chartered surveyor and vice-president of the SCSI;

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This column is a readers' service. Advice given is general and individual
advice should always be sought