Can flood-prone Queensland homes be sold without sellers or agents volunteering the soggy truth? Yes!
by Tim O’Dwyer M.A., LL.B
What if sellers don’t ‘fess up if there’s no record of council inspections? They can sell regardless! What if a seller’s carport, garage or deck was built illegally? No selling worries! What if a home is termite-riddled? Don’t tell! And if sellers obtain a pre-sale building report showing heaps of problems? Don’t mention the report!
This is why “buyer beware” is the first unwritten rule of real estate in Queensland. Will it stay that way? Yes. Because Queensland’s government refuses to legally oblige home sellers to disclose material information to prospective buyers.
No matter that seven years ago the ACT Labor Government introduced reforms which (not unreasonably) require sellers, before putting a property up for sale, to give to buyers details of building approvals and inspections together with current building/pest inspection reports. The Northern Territory Labor Government is currently proposing to bring in disclosure legislation whereby sellers must (not unreasonably) give buyers swimming pool compliance certificates, flood information and reports on whether structures comply with building laws. And the New South Wales Labor Government will shortly require sellers (not unreasonably) to give buyers building/ pest inspection reports.
When a disgruntled homebuyer recently complained to Queensland Fair Trading Minister Peter Lawlor about expenses needlessly incurred because a seller and an agent failed to disclose building defects and illegal structures, the Minister’s unsympathetic reply merely stated the problem:
“While a real estate agent needs to verify the material facts when selling a property and encourage the seller to disclose all information, there is no obligation or legal requirement for the agent or seller to conduct building and pest inspections, or conduct council approval surveys prior to listing a property for sale.“
“Pest and building inspections and council approvals are the responsibility of the purchaser,” he unhelpfully explained.
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