English property law is governed by the doctrine of Caveat Emptor which roughly translated means “let the buyer beware.” What this actually means is that the person from whom you are buying your property has no legal duty to tell you if there is anything wrong with it.
If the roof is about to collapse, the loft is riddled with woodworm or the wiring is decidedly dodgy he or she has no obligation to spill the beans. If asked a direct question the seller cannot lie and tell you that something is working when it isn’t (in a deliberate attempt to mislead you) but apart from that the onus is on you to make your own investigations.
The first thing that you need to understand is what we do as your legal team. Our remit is to deal with compliance issues such as whether the boiler has the correct certification, what guarantees exist and whether any extensions or alterations have the correct permissions. These, however, are legal issues. What we can’t tell you is whether the property has damp, woodworm, subsidence or any other physical problem. For that you need a surveyor.
A surveyor’s job is to examine the physical condition of the property. In short, he can tell you what is wrong or is likely to go wrong in the near future. You can then assess, by obtaining quotations for the work, how much it will cost to put it right. Having stretched yourself financially to buy the house of your dreams the last thing you want is to face a large and unexpected repair bill after you have moved in
One common misapprehension is that if you are having a mortgage then the building society’s surveyor will pick up on any issues. In truth, all that the lender is doing is making sure that the property is worth what you are paying for it. The lender is carrying out a valuation NOT a survey and will not be looking in the same detail as a surveyor carrying out a proper survey. Moreover, if something is missed you have no redress as the valuation is carried out for the benefit of the lender, not for you.
There are various types of survey that you can have and a reputable surveyor will not try to sell you the most expensive but will advise you on what is suitable. You probably won’t for example, need a full structural survey for a relatively new house that is still under warranty.
When you are looking for a surveyor please contact us as we can recommend experienced local surveyors in respect of whom we have received good feedback from our clients. Whilst a surveyor won’t be able to check out every aspect of your house, for example, he isn’t a gas engineer so cannot test your central heating system; he should be able to advise you on additional tests that he feels are necessary. He may for example spot an established tree near a drain and recommend you have the drains checked for root damage. He will spot damp or woodworm and will advise you to involve a specialist to assess the problem in more detail. He will also be able to spot structural issues not necessarily visible to a most people e.g. the removal of a wall.
Whilst a survey may seem like an additional unwanted expense it can save you an awful lot of money in the long term.
If you are buying a house and need specialist legal advice, speak to our dedicated conveyancing team today.
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