Porter Veritas Conveyancing: Don't get stuck with illegal works

HELP AT HAND: Porter Veritas Conveyancing director Elizabeth Porter urges vendors to use caution to prevent illegal work problems. Picture: Lee Nichols Photography.

HELP AT HAND: Porter Veritas Conveyancing director Elizabeth Porter urges vendors to use caution to prevent illegal work problems. Picture: Lee Nichols Photography.

While converting your unused garage into a home office may seem like a very good idea (particularly at a time when many more people are working from home), carrying out illegal works can significantly complicate your life when it comes to selling your home.

Illegal works are those that require approval from the local council, but the process has not been completed ahead of the work.

Porter Veritas Conveyancing's director, Elizabeth Porter, urges vendors to be wary before making home conversions that they believe are a great idea at the time - for example changing the garage into a home office, sewing room, teenager's retreat or another bedroom.

"Vendors have a duty of disclosure to disclose any unapproved works in a contract to protect the sale," she said.

"Purchasers need to be wary prior to buying a property with unapproved works as they take on the risk."

According to the federal government's guide to environmentally sustainable homes, most local government policies allow "minor internal and external changes" without approval. By minor, it means the work does not alter the structure of the building. Bearing that in mind, it is always best to check first.

"Alterations to services (plumbing, drainage, gas and electrical) do require approval and inspection by the relevant authority but may not require planning or building approval," the guide states.

Councils can take action on works found to have been built without approval, including requiring the owner to go through the approval process and/or requiring that an illegal addition be demolished.

In the case of garage and under house conversions, Elizabeth said vendors would require 'usage' approval and the height of the space would need to comply as a habitable room.

"Once a floor has been laid, you need to factor in the required ceiling height," she said.

"Is the area waterproofed? The fall of the land may be directing run-off towards the area. The concrete slab may be subject to rising damp, should it not be waterproofed to code. Make sure you do your homework."

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