Buying an altered home? How to colour inside the lines
Buyers should request a copy of the house’s approved plans before or during the purchasing stage. This is because liability for illegal extensions, alterations or additions to a property fall on the registered owner.
“Buyers who are in the process of purchasing a property can simply request a copy of the approved plans as a suspensive condition of sale,” says Charles Haigh, broker/owner of RE/MAX Elite. “This means that unless the plans are produced, transfer will not take place and in effect will pass the responsibility of proving the legality of the structure to the seller or the current registered owner.
“An approved plan will shed some light on the age of the property, setbacks for building lines and of course whether the changes have been endorsed by the local authority for building regulations. Property buyers need to be aware that the council seeks recourse and remedy for illegal extensions to properties from the registered owner of the property at the time that the notice to comply is issued.”
“If the homeowner finds himself in a situation where he receives a notice from council about an illegal extension on his property, he should enlist the services of draftsman or architect,” says Haigh. “The plans for the extension will need to be drawn and submitted to the council. Be prepared to pay about double the usual fee as a penalty and/or a demolition order from the local authority for the illegal structure. Try recourse with the previous owner for non-disclosure and split the cost if all else fails.”
The same applies to newly constructed homes where the local authority’s building inspector will sign off on the commencement and completion of the home through various certificates of compliance. This means buyers are safe in this regard.
“There are no beetle or electrical compliance certificates, but there will be a completion and an occupancy certificate,” says Haigh. “The council will only provide an occupancy certificate once all other certificates are issued for the house. In other words, the electricity, water, sewerage and all other services will be connected and working.”
All new builds also need to be enrolled with the National Homebuilders Registration Council (NHBRC) before construction starts. Make provision for a compulsory 1.3% levy of the building contract amount which will need to be paid to the NHBRC for enrolling the home.
The homeowner should also request copies of all the certificates, as well as a copy of the approved plans and the enrolment certificate. This certificate has the NHBRC standard building guarantee on it, which warrants the integrity of the structure against shoddy workmanship for five years.