A reader who was very interested in purchasing a particular residential property has contacted the Property Poser expert regarding a number of defects that have come to light.
He says he had taken a look around the property and then, on the advice of a friend, decided to have it inspected for defects.
The inspection highlighted several rather substantial problems and potential issues, including the geyser and several damp areas.
The reader explains that none of these problems were identified by the agent and would like to know who would be responsible for the cost of repairs if he had not discovered these problems through his appointed inspectors.
He does not however clarify the circumstances surrounding his inspection or whether the agent made any representations regarding any of the defects.
According to Sean Radue of Radue Attorneys in Port Elizabeth, the inspection process can take place in various ways.
“It would seem that the agent was actively involved in the process but we are not told whether our reader questioned him or her directly about any specific defects.”
Radue says it is now fairly commonplace to have the seller or his or her agent complete a list of known defects to a dwelling.
“Such a list usually makes provision for the listing of repairs and maintenance work carried out to the structure over a certain period together with any issues that still require repairs.”
The list often helps to preclude a dispute where it appears that a problem was patched for concealing purposes whereas the seller may have genuinely endeavoured to fix it, he says.
“This is often the case where damp presents itself after the transfer has taken place and, on closer inspection, it becomes clear that work was carried out on the affected area.”
If this was disclosed, the buyer would be less inclined to be upset about the appearance of the damp, says Radue.
“It is also not clear whether the reader proceeded to purchase the property. The list of disclosures is usually completed in anticipation of an offer and furnished as part of the agreement of sale.”
He says a prudent and genuine purchaser might wish to try to obtain such a document early on in the negotiation.
“It would help to put him in a position to reasonably assess the cost of the repair work he, as purchaser, would have to carry out should his offer be successful.”
Appointing a party to inspect the property is often useful to a potential purchaser and is generally only used where a buyer is genuinely considering buying the property, as there is a cost factor in obtaining such a report, says Radue.
“This cost could be agreed to be shared by the seller and potential purchaser as the knowledge of any defects could be equally useful to the seller in certain circumstances.”
He says the cost of the report would easily be worthwhile for a purchaser in his assessment of a fair offer for the property as the cost of repairs could be factored into such an offer.
“As far as the seller and agent are concerned, it is their duty to disclose any known defects in the property.”
Failing to do so could result in certain liability attaching to them as a result of their misrepresentation to the purchaser, says Radue.
“Similarly, there is a duty on the potential purchaser to conduct a reasonably thorough inspection of the property and to discover for himself those defects that are reasonably discoverable.”
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