300,000 kronor cock-up: Unwary newcomer's renovation disaster

Akbar Mohammadi's dream of renovating his old house in Byske has turned into a 300,000 kronor nightmare. The culprit? Windows that clash with the building's historic 'K-mark' conservation character. Unbeknown to 20-year-old Akbar at the time of purchase, his centrally located house bears a special designation: it's considered historically significant and has what the Swedish authorities call a 'K-mark' status.

Akbar Mohammadi needs to redo the window replacements on the upper floor and attic of his house. The original windows on the ground floor remain untouched, while new windows have been purchased but cannot be installed for the upper floors.

Akbar Mohammadi needs to redo the window replacements on the upper floor and attic of his house. The original windows on the ground floor remain untouched, while new windows have been purchased but cannot be installed for the upper floors.

Foto: Yvonne Rönngren

Byske2024-04-16 09:00

This designation comes with specific regulations, particularly regarding alterations to the building's exterior. 

Akbar's efforts to modernize the windows, replacing 11 on the second floor and continuing a project started by the previous owner who had replaced four, clashed with these regulations. 

The municipality stepped in, informing Akbar that the new windows must be replaced with styles that better reflect the building's historic character.

An older photo of the house.

Akbar, who works in Skellefteå, was unaware of the house's conservation status when he bought the house.

– Neither the real estate agent nor the previous owner mentioned that the house was listed, says Akbar when Norran meets him and his older brother, who is also involved in the project.

Do you feel deceived?

– Deceived is a strong word. Perhaps it was an oversight rather than a deliberate omission. Nonetheless, it's information we should have been privy to, his brother said.

The situation is further complicated by Akbar's significant investment. He purchased new windows for the entire house and paid for a carpenter to install them, spending a total of around 300,000 kronor. Now, with the modern windows deemed illegal, they sit unused indoors, taking up space. Additionally, the drafty old windows are not suitable to reuse, adding another layer to the problem.

Akbar Mohammadi also purchased new windows for the lower floor, but unfortunately, the factory won't accept returns due to their custom measurements. These windows are now taking up space indoors.

The real kick in the teeth for Akbar was being unable to get a refund for the new windows because they were custom-made and couldn't be returned to the manufacturer. 

Given that he's already invested a huge amount of money in the project, he's understandably hesitant to order any more new windows, especially when he's even expected to replace those new windows installed by the previous owner.

– I shouldn't be held responsible for what they've done, he said. 

He further questioned the need for a complete restoration when some of the original windows are still in situ.

Akbar Mohammadi encountered several issues with the new windows installed on the upper floor. The window panes have the wrong internal division layout, and the windows themselves are set too deeply into the wall instead of sitting flush with the building's facade. Additionally, trim was installed around the windows, which was not part of the original design.

Now Akbar finds himself in a quandary, unsure of his next step. His deadline to change the windows is January 1, 2029. Failure to comply carries the threat of a substantial fine, amounting to 5,000 kronor per window, potentially totaling 75,000 kronor.

To further complicate matters, the restoration requirement will remain attached to the property even if it's sold before the deadline. 

This means the new owner would be responsible for the restoration. This stipulation has now been formally recorded in the property register, ensuring that future owners are aware of their obligations.

Akbar Mohammadi needs to restore as was a total of 15 windows in his house. He has already replaced 11 of them himself, while the remaining 4 were replaced by the previous owner.

The previous owner maintains they conducted due diligence by researching the municipal website and consulting a customer service representative. However, this representative allegedly advised that a building permit wasn't required for window replacements.

The municipality acknowledged shortcomings in their procedures, specifically the malfunctioning digital map for historically significant buildings in Byske. Given this error, they view the previous owner's efforts to gather information as credible.

Enar Nordvik, head of building permits at Skellefteå municipality, was questioned about the issue. He confirmed that they had swiftly rectified the map's errors.

– As soon as we found out that there was an error in the map service for Byske, we corrected it. Unfortunately, we don't know if it was during this time that the person contacted us, because customer service doesn't have any record of any communication about this.

– That said, you should be able to trust what is said by customer service, he adds.

K-mark - need to know

In Sweden, the "K-mark" refers to buildings or structures that hold historical or cultural significance and are protected under heritage conservation laws. The designation "K-mark" stands for "kulturhistoriskt värdefull" (culturally historically valuable).

Buildings with the K-mark status are subject to strict regulations regarding any changes or renovations. These regulations aim to preserve the historical and cultural integrity of the structure.

When it comes to changes made to houses with K-mark status, property owners typically need to adhere to specific guidelines and obtain approval from local heritage conservation authorities before making alterations. This can include modifications to the exterior, such as changes to windows, doors, roofing materials, or facades. Interior alterations may also be subject to scrutiny, especially if they impact the building's historical character.

Property owners may face restrictions or requirements such as using traditional building materials and methods, maintaining original architectural features, or preserving certain historical elements.

The Swedish National Heritage Board (https://www.raa.se/in-english/) is a good starting point for information on building conservation in Sweden.

You can also try searching for the municipality's website (Skellefteå municipality in this case) for specific information on building regulations and "Byggnadsvårdsprogram" related to the area.