By Justine Gavranich AICWA member and licensee at Mosaic Settlements
Illegal building, encompassing unapproved additions or modifications to a property, presents significant financial and legal risks to potential property buyers in Perth. Roughly 30% of building assessments in Perth uncover various forms of illegal construction, underscoring its prevalence in the local real estate market. To navigate this issue effectively, here are three essential facts for prospective homebuyers to bear in mind:
1. Inherent Risks
Illegal alterations are illegal for valid reasons — they pose substantial hazards. Work executed by unlicensed individuals can result in severe problems for a property. For instance:
- Improper plumbing work may lead to dampness and mould infiltration within walls.
- Unauthorised removal of load-bearing walls during renovations can cause structural issues like a sagging roof.
Structures, such as gazebos, lacking council approval are deemed illegal, regardless of their apparent structural soundness, even in Perth. In such cases, local authorities can demand the demolition of unapproved extensions, which can be a concern for property owners.
2. Buyer Accountability
Once you purchase a property with illegal additions in Perth, the responsibility becomes yours. While there may be legal recourse against the seller, pursuing such action often entails costly and protracted legal disputes in Perth. Consequently, you may find yourself compelled to rectify the issues personally or be held liable for any accidents arising from the substandard work in Perth.
Notably, as a property owner in Perth, you assume legal liability for any injuries sustained by your visitors, including tradespeople, due to the unauthorised additions.
3. No Simple Remedies
Regrettably, councils may not grant retrospective approval for unauthorised extensions in Perth. Approval should be obtained before any construction commences. Additionally, addressing the consequences of illegal building, such as damp walls or compromised roof structures, can be complex and costly. Depending on the extent of the alterations, you might need to rectify:
- Foundation issues
- Plumbing discrepancies
- Electrical wiring concerns
- Roof frame problems
Repairing errors made by previous owners can significantly dent your finances, underscoring the importance of identifying illegal building prior to purchasing a property.
The Solution for Home Buyers in Perth
To mitigate the risk of inheriting a significant problem when buying a property in Perth, consider the following measures:
- Incorporate specific conditions into the Offer and Acceptance contract, stipulating that the agreement hinges on a favourable building inspection report, to your satisfaction.
- Prior to entering into the Contract to purchase the property, commission a professional building inspection to identify any potential issues with the property, including illegal additions – employing the services of a qualified inspector is crucial.
If you are willing to proceed with a purchase despite the presence of illegal building, the inspection findings can serve as a basis for negotiation (depending on the special conditions set out in your Contract of Sale). For instance, you may negotiate a reduced purchase price or an agreement for the seller to rectify the problems.
In conclusion, it is imperative to proactively address the issue of illegal building prior to entering into a contract or once the contract has been signed, so long as you ensure special conditions are entered into you contract to protect you if major issues arise once inspections have taken place. Waiting until settlement or beyond can lead to costly and complex challenges that can significantly impact your investment.