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Illegal Construction: Previous Owner’s Problem or Yours?

illegal construction previous owners problem

Illegal Construction: Previous Owner’s Problem or Yours?

Illegal construction is a lot more common than most people are aware of. If the workmanship is good, most people would assume that it’s all fine (or they may not even notice there has been an addition!).

pergolaWith the huge popularity of DIY shows in Australia at the moment, you might be forgiven for thinking it’s easy for anyone to build that stunning or extend the home to add on an all-important theater room. However, there are laws that need to be observed relating to this type of work, and getting council permits or approvals is number one on the list of must-dos. Failure to obtain a permit before commencing certain types of construction will mean a shiny new addition may be classified as an illegal construction.

Council permits also check that whoever is doing to work is qualified to do so, ensuring all of the building insurances are covered. If construction was undertaken without proper insurance, you could be liable for any damage caused to people or other property if something goes wrong – it doesn’t matter if the construction took place before you purchased the home, as any issues are the current owner’s responsibility under Australian legislation.

There are a few simple things you can do when buying a home to avoid issues down the track:

  1. Ask the Real Estate Agent for original plans and permit documentation, and compare them to the home as it is now. Look for additional pergolas, decking, home extensions, internal wall changes, carports and garages that are not on the plans and do not have supporting permits. Small garden sheds are typically fine, but if you’re concerned check with the local council on their requirements,
  2. Ask the local council if there are permits registered for any suspected illegal construction on the property,
  3. Ask your conveyancer to investigate any concerns you have regarding any suspected illegal construction, and
  4. Have a professional building inspector to investigate any suspected illegal construction.

If the previous owner did not have approval for additions to their home and you purchase the property, you will now be responsible for the illegal construction. The Council can require you to remove any illegal constructions or make alterations to comply with their regulations – needless to say, this could get quite expensive. If you are trying to apply for a permit for your own alterations, it may not be approved until issues with any current illegal constructions are resolved.

It’s better for you to be proactive and do your research now, rather than after you have purchased a property and are legally responsible for it.

– Mark Chatterton, HomeInspectr


Don’t forget, the HomeInspectr App is available on Google Play & Apple App Store and is a great tool to help you check for potential issues you should look for that may affect the builders warranty.

The idea for HomeInspectr was created when Alyson Chatterton repeatedly observed homes being sold by ‘dodgy’ home owners. We’ve all heard the story – instead of fixing major issues with their home, it was easier to pass the costly remediations on to an unsuspecting new owner.

Property laws in most parts of Australia are based on a “buyer beware” doctrine. It’s very different to buying a car, where the owner is required to obtain a roadworthy certificate before they can sell it. HomeInspectr has been created to help people counter those dodgy homeowners who are shamelessly trying to offload their problem homes on to others.

Mark and Alyson designed HomeInspectr to provide the average home buyer with information to ensure they are aware of potential issues they should look for at an open inspection. They’ve pulled together an easy to understand guide for home buyers, based on the knowledge of a number of building experts with decades of experience in the industry. Our aim is to empower home buyers to find their perfect home.

This article was originally posted here.

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