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Help! My home has unlawful buildings

Oh no!  Not another one. It’s an all-too-common story.  The buyer signs a home contract, without first obtaining legal advice.  Prior to settlement he visits the Local Government (council) offices and makes the unpleasant discovery that some of the buildings don’t have approval.

As a general rule, most substantial renovations to homes require council approval before works commence.  However,  many properties in Western Australia have unapproved structures, such as patios, gazebos, sheds, garages, retaining walls, windows and even whole rooms, bathrooms and granny flats.

What’s the problem?

In general, councils have broad powers to require home owners to seek retrospective approval for unapproved structures. Approval may be time-consuming and expensive to obtain, particularly if reports from builders or engineers are required.  Refusal to grant retrospective approval (or approval subject to conditions) may leave the home owner responsible for expensive remedial work.

What are my rights?

As a buyer in this situation what should you do?

The short answer is – seek legal advice. As your independent settlement lawyers, contact us to book a consultation.

These situations are never simple. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, we can make these general observations:

  • the standard-form contract used in WA, known as the Contract for Sale of Land or Strata Title by Offer and Acceptance, is of little help to buyers in this predicament;
  • many contracts contain specific clauses touching on the issue of council approvals.  The buyer’s rights in this situation will depend on the wording of the clause, the contract as a whole and the parties’ circumstances.

A better idea

Don’t put yourself in this situation in the first place.

Call in at the Local Government offices and inspect the building plans before you sign the contract. 

Simple advice, but almost universally unheeded, in our experience.

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