Maintenance and repair when purchasing a property
Lisbeth Ann Pay, Associate with ESPC member firm ELP Solicitors, identifies common problems that occur when purchasing a property which is in need of repair.
Once you purchase a property you become responsible for maintaining and repairing it, and it is therefore extremely important to establish the condition of a property before you put in an offer. This is true for every property. However, if you are purchasing a flat it is essential to bear in mind that, not only are you buying the flat, you are also acquiring a right in common to the common parts of the building – the outside walls, the close, the back green and – most importantly – the roof. The condition of the common parts of the building should be just as important to a buyer than the internal condition of the flat.
Condition of the common parts
First of all, how do you know if the common parts are in good condition? The Home Report for a property will give only limited information on the state of the roof and outside walls. You should bear in mind that the Home Report is prepared on the instructions of the Seller who is keen to have a positive report and certainly not one which highlights any problems. All too often the surveyor will simply make a vague general comment about the roof often on the basis of inspection from the pavement. A prudent purchaser may wish to obtain a roofing report to verify the actual condition of the roof.
What happens if repairs are required?
Suppose you find that roof repairs are required – what happens then? Previously, repairs to the common areas in flatted blocks were dealt with either between the owners, if they were all happy to co-operate, or more likely by the City of Edinburgh Council under a Statutory Notice served on the building sometimes at the instigation of one of the owners. However, in 2010 the Council stopped carrying out work under Statutory Notices except in the case of emergency and there is now no system for the Council or for any of the owners to enforce necessary repairs. Owners can still agree to do the required work but it can be impossible to obtain agreement (and funds) from multiple owners.
Outstanding Statutory Notices
You may also discover that there are outstanding Statutory Notices on the property indicating that repairs are required. Previously the Council would have done these repairs and the Seller would have paid for them. But since the Council stopped carrying out repairs nothing will be done unless the owners agree. The repair remains undone and in many cases the building deteriorates leaving the owners with an even bigger problem when they come to sell. A purchaser should think seriously before buying into a repair problem that is unlikely to be resolved soon. In extreme cases, such a problem may make a flat very difficult or impossible to sell.
About the author
Lisbeth Ann Pay is an Associate with ELP Solicitors, a member firm of ESPC, with many years of experience in the Edinburgh property market. She has helped numerous clients buy and sell their properties through many changes in market conditions and also in the buying/selling process.