Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware
All property sales in Queensland are based upon the principle of buyer beware. It is the responsibility of the buyer to thoroughly investigate the property themselves rather than rely on information provided to them by the seller. Buying a property for the first time is perhaps one of the biggest financial decision you will make in your lifetime, which is why it is important to investigate the property as comprehensively as possible.
As many properties have improvements made to them over the years (built after the original structure was constructed) such as carports, pools, sheds, decks and other renovations, it is important to determine whether these additions have council approval. If council approval has not been obtained, you (as the buyer) will become liable for the costs of any rectification required to make the additions compliant with council regulations.
Common costs in making renovations compliant may include engaging the services of a certifier, administration costs in obtaining council approval and conducting various renovation works. Unfortunately, as many owners simply erect structures to their own liking, in some cases these additions are not possible to be council approved and will therefore need to be torn down. In the worst-case scenario, an entire dwelling (or additions to the dwelling) may not be legally occupied. As a purchaser, this is an extremely costly mistake.
How to Avoid Problems
Building Records Search
Before purchasing a property, it is recommended that you undertake a “inspection of building records search” with the Council to identify any structure or improvement built on the property post 1986. This search confirms whether any additions have been made to the original structure, and whether these additions have received a final inspection certificate from the local authority. The issuing of a certificate indicated compliance with Council regulations
QBCC Insurance Search
As a buyer, you should also undertake a Queensland Building Services Authority search for any dwellings or improvements built on the property within six years. This confirms how the additions were built (by a registered builder e.g) and affects your ability to access insurance cover for constructions faults.
Prior to Signing the Contract
The current standard contract in Queensland does not provide a clear right to terminate (as the buyer) if additions or improvements are found to be non-compliant. Therefore, if you are considering purchasing a property, seek legal advice regarding the matters above, and, to have a special condition inserted into the contract prior to signing.