Tricks and Traps of Building and Pest Inspections

[Author – Tim ODwyer]

Buyers and sellers alike are still being conned on building and pest inspection clauses in sales contracts. Meanwhile, the regulators do not seem to care about protecting consumers in this regard – especially when safety clauses are left out of contracts, or when dodgy ones are added.

Beware of building and pest inspection clauses limited to the house only – which means you accept the state of fences, retaining walls, garages, carports, swimming-pools etc. Particularly watch out for bogus building clauses cunningly restricted to “serious structural defects”. These clauses are worthless, and deceptively designed to bind you to a contract no matter how unsatisfactory your reports turn out. Why? Because building inspectors are not qualified or expected (under Australian Standard 4349.1 – 1995) to report on “structural defects” … serious or otherwise. Structural engineers, not building inspectors, determine issues of structure.

Property buyers should, of course, ensure any purchase contract is subject to satisfactory building and pest inspections. Inspection periods in contracts are often too short. Ask your own inspectors (never use the agent’s mates) how long they need to inspect, to complete their reports then get them to you. Make sure there is sufficient time in the contract for this, and for you to consider reports, get quotes and perhaps re-negotiate the price. (By the way, ask for sample reports, check what you’ll get for your money and expect a wad of exclusions, restrictions, exemptions and largely irrelevant rubbish.

SELLERS BEWARE: Don’t let yourself get messed around, and remember you can be liable for agents’ misleading statements about your property as well as about contract terms.

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