Want to know why above all things it is essential your conveyancer is thorough and has an eye for detail? Well I am here to tell you. The example I will describe actually happened at the end of last year but it clearly illustrates the point.
I had a particular client who was purchasing a new property. She had found the place she wanted to buy and had her heart set on the house. She was thrilled that after house hunting for a while she had found her “dream home” and once her offer on the property was accepted she had got the ball rolling and appointed Barnes and Partners Solicitors in Ware. This woman wasn’t a first time buyer and had been through the process before so it wasn’t completely new or unfamiliar to her.
As you probably know, mortgages are approved subject to surveys and we as conveyancers have to also do a number of searches so that we cover off all potential red flags and issues.
Log Burner Check
I was carrying out the process as I usually would and found that this particular property had a log burner. Some conveyancers may not pick-up on log burners as an issue but I followed due diligence and looked into it. I found this log burner had been installed but at first it was unclear when exactly.
After some digging, the team managed to trace back that the log burner was installed sometime in the late 1980s to early 1990s. However, no HETAS certificate was available.
The following is official HETAS information that is applicable to log burners:
“A HETAS Certificate of Compliance (Building Regulation Compliance Certificate) demonstrates that the installation complies with the relevant Building Regulations. The information on the certificate is used to record your installation, and in England & Wales it is used to notify your Local Authority Building Control Department (LABC) of the work that was undertaken.
HETAS Notice Plate
Where a hearth, fireplace, flue or chimney is provided as part of the work information essential to the correct application and use of these facilities should be permanently posted in the building. A way of meeting this requirement is for the installer to provide a Notice (or Data) plate.”
Obviously, we raised this with the seller’s solicitors and they said they would insure with an indemnity insurance policy. They also stated that the seller would pay for this.
Our client seemed satisfied and some firms may leave it at this but we argued that although the indemnity policy would hopefully cover local authority enforcement action for lack of building regulations/HETAS certificate that it would not cover faulty workmanship or improper installation.
I advised our client (buyer) to gain a specific log burner inspection, which she did. The log burner was then found to be faulty – incorrectly installed and breaching building regulations due to incorrect flue linings and leakage of carbon monoxide – the plumber actually condemned the log burner!
The vendor had to pay £1,500 to rectify this and then the sale went through. Everyone was happy and it was a good outcome for all.
Just a month later, our local paper reported news of a cottage fire caused by a log burner nearby, which new buyers of this home had lit for the first time since moving in.The article can be read here
Fortunately no one was hurt, but the home was destroyed. Obviously there are no pointing fingers and we don’t know exactly how or why this happened. Potentially all necessary checks were followed through and showed nothing but this devastating news really shocked us and drove the point that the details really are so important.
We were so thankful that the log burner inspection was carried out thoroughly for our client and all preventative measures were taken.