Legal Check

What to look out for

Legal Check

Before buying a property, you or your lawyer should do the following:

  • Check that there are no pre-emption rights over the property you’re planning to buy and that there are no plans to construct anything (e.g. roads, railway lines, airports, shops, factories) that would adversely affect its value, enjoyment or use.
  • Check whether there’s a zoning policy in the town or area that may affect the property.
  • Check whether the property is subject to a compulsory purchase order.
  • Check whether there are any rights of way (e.g. for a neighbour) over the land and, if so, whether these are permanent or renewable.
  • Ensure that building permits and planning permissions are in order and that a property was built in accordance with plans and permits. Any modifications, renovations, extensions or additions (such as a swimming pool) must be included on the plans and be authorised. Building plans must be checked against the cadastral plan at the land registry.
  • In cases where a property has been inherited, check whether each inheritor has agreed to the sale. Heirs who haven’t been contacted may have the right to contest the will.
  • If a property was previously owned by a bankrupt company, ensure that the liquidator won’t reverse the sale and claim it for the creditors.
  • Check that there are no encumbrances, e.g. mortgages or loans, against a property or outstanding debts which you might inherit.
  • Enquire at the municipal offices whether there are any unpaid taxes such as property tax or other charges outstanding against a property.
  • In the case of a community property or sectional title property, check that there are no outstanding levies for the last five years (it may be possible for a vendor to pay the current year’s levy and ignore previous bills) and obtain copies of the scheme rules and the latest accounts of the body corporate (which should state whether there are any impending levies for repairs for which you would be liable).
  • Check that all bills for electricity, water, telephone and gas have been paid for the last few years. Receipts should be provided by the vendor for all such services.
  • If you’re buying land for building or planning to extend an existing building, obtain a certificate from the local town hall stating what can be built on it and what the property and the land can be used for. It’s important to check the size of dwelling that can be built on a plot or how far an existing building can be extended.
  • If the property is a listed building, check that there are no state pre-emption rights or restrictions on use or resale.

You should also ask your lawyer about your rights (e.g. to the return of your deposit and any other funds already paid) if it isn’t possible to complete the sale for any reason after an agreement of sale has been signed.

Further reading

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