Building Looks Kinda Dodgy – Building Certificates

After you have found the perfect property, a common question to ponder is whether the building or buildings that you are intending to move into have been built correctly and approved by the relevant authorities. Whilst us lawyers would love to have an opinion on how good the building is and whether it meets all relevant codes, unfortunately, and it pains me to say this, we are not qualified to do so (in our capacity as lawyers).

So what can you do? As part of the conveyancing process, certain inquiries should be made. We here at ClickLaw almost universally recommend that our clients obtain a building and pest inspection…but that is not the purpose of this article.

If you want to know if a building has been approved (or indeed extensions etc) one of the best ways of doing so is to obtain what is known as a building certificate. A building certificate is a certificate issued by the local Council to the effect that it does not propose to issue an order for illegal building works (such as a demolition order or an upgrade order) or otherwise can state that demolition of illegal structures or an upgrade of illegal structures is required.

In order to obtain a building certificate, you must first obtain a survey report of the property and provide a copy of the survey report with your application for a building certificate. It can take a number of weeks (depending upon your Council) to obtain the building certificate so the risk of not obtaining the building certificate must be weighed against the risk of loosing the opportunity to purchase the property.

On occasion, a vendor may agree to a clause in a contract to the effect that the contract is conditional upon obtaining a building certificate. This may or may not be palatable to a vendor but may be a good indication of the vendor’s knowledge in respect of the sale property.

Ultimately, obtaining the building certificate may provide you with confidence in the construction of the building works on the property so far as it relates to having the relevant authority’s approval (or agreement not to seek further action). If the building certificate is not clear, you will have to take such matters into consideration when analysing what you wish to pay and the terms on which you agree in respect of the purchase of the property.

John Kettle

ClickLaw Australia