The good news is, I had an email from Daniel. Yes, they're safely on the Doulos, doing yet more training. His phone is flat, and he hasn't yet had a chance to get the charger checked for safety, hence why he hasn't replied to text messages.
But the house situation seems to grow ever more complicated. This time it's about our house in the UK. We signed the contract and deed transfer document on Monday and they're now safely at our solicitor's office back in Birmingham. So far so good.
But a query has come up from the buyer's solicitor, for which we have to delve into history.
When we bought the house in Birmingham, way back in 1982, it had been used as a rental property and was converted to two separate apartments. A downstairs flat, with access via the back door only, and an upstairs two-storey one, with access via the main staircase near the front door. Rather like the place we're hoping to buy here, but with the staircase inside rather than outside.
The house was also in need of considerable repairs - new roof, damp-proof course, plaster renovation, rewiring, and various other things. So when we received our mortgage offer, it was on condition that we did the necessary renovation and conversion. We even managed to find the initial paperwork. The initial mortgage valuation includes the sentences:
"We have assumed, for the purpose of our Valuation, that the property will be converted back to a single dwellinghouse."
"An entrance doorway requires forming between the ground and first floor flats, and the sink unit should be removed from the rear bedroom."
Since we wanted it as one house, this was no problem. When we received the actual mortgage offer, it said that it was subject to various legal things, and:
"Subject to the property to be reconverted to a single dwelling."
On the original document from the estate agent (yes, we even still have that!) there's the phrase:
"if required, relatively minor works of adaptation could be carried out to reconvert the property to a spacious private residence."
And yes, it was relatively minor. We did it ourselves on the day we moved in - knocked through an old doorway, and removed some of the blocking-in of the staircase. It took us several years to complete the renovations - we did a lot more than was required by the mortgage, and of course redecorated throughout - but the actual reconversion back to one house was the work of about an hour.
The solicitor of the lady buying the house has been doing the standard searches, and has uncovered something which we did not know: some years before we bought the house, the previous owner applied for planning permission to convert it into two flats. Perhaps because he wanted to rent it out, and rules for rental properties are quite strict.
However since the modifications were all internal, it never occurred to us that planning permission would be relevant. It didn't come up in the searches our solicitor did, as far as we know, and was never mentioned by the mortgage company, the estate agent, or indeed anyone else.
We HOPE that since it was so long ago, and didn't involve any changes to the look or structure of the house, that there will not be any problems. But we heard from our UK solicitor today (not the one we used 23 years ago) that he's been asked to check with the local planning office, to confirm that planning permission and/or building regs would not have been required.
Ironical, really. Our concerns about the house we want to buy here are that it may be difficult to sell again, since it doesn't have full planning permission for everything on the site. And now we find that our house in the UK is in a similar state.