A professional buyer’s agent should find out as much as possible about a property and it’s surrounds for their clients before their client exchanges contracts to purchase. An important part of the due diligence process is investigating whether there are any issues with the local council.
The purchaser’s solicitor or conveyancer will examine the Contract of Sale, and review the 149 Certificate that is issued by the local council. However from my experience many solicitors and conveyancers do not have the time or inclination to thoroughly check all of the issues with the local council, and therefore it is incumbent upon buyers’ agents to do those extra checks.
As buyers’ agents, we should independently call the local council and speak to the Duty Planner or Duty Surveyor to enquire whether there are any past or current Development Applications (DA’s) on the property to be purchased, and also for the surrounding properties. Information received may have a negative impact on the property of interest and may affect whether your client is still comfortable to proceed with the purchase.
Previously rejected DA’s may contradict what a selling agent has advised on what is possible with renovating or extending a property. Other issues that may be disclosed are: unauthorised building works, Construction and Occupation Certificates not issued, and also demolition orders.
Many council websites have a DA Tracker section, where you can see a history of Development Applications on any property within the area of that council.
Some recent examples of issues that I have uncovered from local council checks have been:
A federation house was in a Roseville street that the Kuringai Council had recently re-zoned to Residential 2(d3), allowing multi-storey developments. My enquiries through council disclosed that a large new six-storey development would be built behind this house. The client still proceeded with the purchase but the sale price allowed for this issue.
A house in Fairlight was affected by road widening. The client’s conveyancer ran a check through the RTA that stated that there were no road widening issues for this property. However my enquiries through Manly Council revealed that there was a Road Widening order on this property, that had been issued by the council independently of the RTA. The land resumed would have taken half of the lawn and garden space of the house. Our client decided not to proceed with this purchase.
A Maroubra unit, with open views to the city, was to lose those views due to a new development directly in front of this building. We checked the plans of the new development, and the client then decided not to proceed with the purchase.
In summary, it is very important that council checks are done on prospective properties as part of a buyers’ agent’s professional due diligence. Failure to do so could potentially expose you to litigation and liability with clients if adverse issues are uncovered following their purchase.
By Henry Wilkinson – Principal, Homesearch Solutions, for the NSW Real Estate Institute 2011