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Illegal Structures and Buildings

In todays current real estate market, home sellers are continually looking for a great buy. It is increasingly important to have well present homes that appeal to the buyer. The pressure is on the seller to offer fresh and appealing homes in order to increase the chances of a good selling price and achieve maximum results. Not only does this include preparing a home which is neat and tidy, both with nice gardens and lawns and a clean crisp look inside, but it also includes presenting patios, sheds and the similar structures which are appealing to the buyers eye. The structure not only needs to serve its purpose, it also needs to be neat and tidy. On other most important things for a seller to consider is its structural integrity and whether or not it has been legally built.

In the recent months MJ Drafting & Designs have been approached by an increasing number of clients with regard to illegal and unapproved construction works. With technology ever increasing, the local councils are finding it easier to locate structures constructed without a building permit.

Recent statistics from Archicentre show that about 29% of Australian homes inspected have some form of illegal building. Common illegal structures include patios, alfresco areas, and sheds.

In extreme cases home owners and buyers could be forced to pull down or rectify illegal structures and become legally liable for any injuries caused to visitors or tradespeople who suffered injury as a result of the illegal building. The most dangerous situations are where people have undertaken illegal wiring, plumbing, structural changes or the construction of balconies and decks on the property.

The harsh reality of the impact of illegal building comes home when people go to sell their homes and find that purchasers are requesting the appropriate paperwork including building permits, and documentation from licensed plumbers and electricians certifying work that has been carried out. If documentation cannot be produced then it becomes highly likely that buyers will not want to inherit the legal or safety risk.

Even if the home is sold to an unsuspecting buyer with illegal construction, an accident caused as a result of the unregistered and illegal work could place the buyer in court facing huge legal damages.

Illegal building, which can cost the home owner thousands of dollars, is a false economy as in the long run it can devalue the home and make it difficult to sell.

If there is an accident at the home such as a balcony collapse, or a death by electrocution, investigations by authorities will ultimately turn up if the building work does not have the appropriate certification.

Often illegal building is covered up with quick make-overs, however, all home buyers should ask to check the paperwork and permits before purchasing a home.

Tell-tale signs of Common illegal building and construction or demolition work include:

- The removal of interior load bearing walls during renovations causing sagging roofs and ceilings.

- The addition of rooms in roof spaces without permits or appropriate support structures in the roof structure.

- Damp and dank areas in the house through lack of ventilation.

- Tacked on additions which do not look like part of the original home.

Therefore it is imperative that anyone purchasing a property, as a home or an investment, should thoroughly check all of the paperwork to ensure they are not buying a future legal problem or placing themselves or family members at risk through illegal building work. MJ Drafting & Designs is a locally based business who can assist clients in determining whether or not illegal construction has taken place on their property. We can determine and access the illegal work and prepare the required documentation in order to have the structures approved by the local council. We have completed numerous projects over the previous years for clients by completing and compiling the required documentation.

What to do if you or your client suspect illegal work has been carried out: If you have not received a Building Notice/Order from Council, the first step would be to contact the Building Department at your local Council to discuss your concerns. If it is deemed illegal building works have been carried out without a building permit, the council will issue building enforcement notices for illegal building work and/or other breaches to the Building Regulations. As Building Permits cannot be issued retrospectively after illegal work has been carried out, the council will usually ask the property owners to show cause why the structure/s should not be demolished. One method of showing cause is to provide plans and details of the structure and obtain certification from a Private Building Surveyor.

If you decide to show cause to try to justify the illegal structure We can assess the illegal work and determine the level of rectification work required to achieve compliance. In most cases the illegal structures is generally well built, with only a few minor items to be rectified and has not had a building permit issued for the construction works. In addition to the on-site inspection, we will prepare all the documents that would have been required to issue a Building Permit. These include but are not limited to:

- compliant architectural/draftspersons drawings clearly showing the works

- engineer's certified structural report (in some cases)

As always, if you feel you need any further advice and assistance, please don not hesitate to call us on 0414 705 197!
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