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The buyer’s responsibilities

As the buyer, you are responsible for examining the property carefully before you sign the purchase contract. If you discover anything that may indicate a fault or defect, you should report it immediately. You can use a professional to support you in this, but you must cover the cost of doing so – such associated costs are not the vendor’s responsibility.

When you examine a property, be sure to:

  • Use a torch to examine dark areas thoroughly

  • Lift carpets to check the condition of the floors

  • Look behind curtains to check the condition of the walls, windows and any shutters

  • Study every part of the property, including the attic, the basement and any land

  • Pay close attention to the facade and roof

  • Inspect any other buildings or facilities, such as garages, wells or drains, that belong to the property

Generally speaking, houses and apartments are sold “as viewed” with regard to their age, price and condition. Talk to your agent for more information about your responsibilities in relation to this, but remember that it is not the agent’s task to carry out the examination.

Hidden fault

“Hidden faults” means faults or defects of which the purchaser was unaware – and could not reasonably have been expected to discover – when making the purchase. For the vendor to be held responsible for a hidden fault, the fault in question must result in the property deviating from what the buyer could reasonably expect.

For example, as a buyer you cannot reasonably expect a 20-year-old pool pump to be in perfect working order; you should realise that you will probably have to replace the pump in the immediate future.

In practice, the types of hidden fault for which the vendor is likely to be held responsible relate to defects in the design or construction of the building. However, as properties are bought and sold "as viewed", the chance of successfully filing a claim for compensation is very limited.

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