For many homeowners, expanding livable space with home extensions can seem like a much more economical and convenient choice than purchasing a larger home, but doing so without taking the proper steps can be a recipe for disaster.
Home extensions can buy homeowners years of time before relocation becomes a necessity, and illegal building is a frighteningly common discovery for building inspectors. When these homeowners are prepared to sell, the subsequent owners of their property can face very real consequences. Not only are these modifications against the law, but they’re also fraught with risk. To further complicate matters, buyers who purchase properties that have been modified through illegal building will be held accountable for the presence of such work.
The Hidden Costs of Illegal Building
Whether you’re living in a home which you plan to expand or are considering the purchase of a home that has been modified, you will be responsible for not only rectifying the problems through corrective renovations but also for any incidents which occur as a result of illegal building.
New buyers will inherit the responsibility of corrective repairs when they assume ownership of a home, and property owners who are still living in a home with illegal building modifications they originated have the same responsibilities.
At first, opting to modify or extend a home without obtaining council approval or hiring licensed trade professionals can seem like a reasonable way of saving money. These extensions and modifications can be cheaper at first, requiring a much smaller up-front investment than the same renovations or modifications would cost if they were carried out according to the law.
Unfortunately, those initial savings can translate to much greater expenses when illegal building modifications are discovered, either through an incident related to unregulated work or a pre-purchase building inspection. Any injuries sustained by visitors or tradespeople which can be directly attributed to illegal building leave the property owner legally liable for damages.
In cases of illegal building work which has already been completed, obtaining retroactive council approval may also not be an option. Existing modifications which are not subject to retroactive council approval will have to be removed, and any subsequent modifications must be completed to the specifications of the council.
This leaves homeowners responsible for not only any injuries which may occur and the cost of removal, but also the full cost of rebuilding with approval and licensed builders. In the end, the money saved initially through illegal building can actually become a substantial financial burden.
Risks Assumed in Relation to Illegal Building
Aside from the risks related to corrective renovations and incident liability, owners who live in homes that have been illegally modified or the new buyers of those properties also assume another set of risks.
Illegal building and modification carried out by unlicensed workers and building amateurs is not subject to quality oversight, like those completed within the bounds of the law. This leaves a far larger margin for error, and poor quality can cause significant damage to the property in a variety of ways.
Structural damage, drainage issues, electrical faults and plumbing errors are just a few of the problems which property owners and new buyers can encounter when dealing with illegal building and modification. To further complicate the issue, new buyers may not be aware of these illegal modifications if the seller chooses not to disclose them at the time of sale.
The best and most reliable way of avoiding problems originating from illegal building and home extensions is to obtain a full building inspection report. This can help prospective buyers make more informed decisions during the purchasing process, and provide existing owners with a more comprehensive overview of the work which will need to be corrected on their properties.
Don’t wait until an illegal building causes personal injury or damage to property; if you suspect the property you’re thinking of buying has been illegally modified, obtain the services of a professional building inspector to learn more about your options and avoid costly damages.
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