A list of additional conditions (known in the contract as ‘annexures’) that most estate agents use incorporate a ‘significant structural defect’ condition that allows you to arrange for a building inspection at your expense.
A building inspector will generally do a full report including all maintenance, structural and non-structural issues (regardless of what the conditions states), but the wording of the contract determines the buyers’ rights. In other words, if your contract condition only covers structural issues and your building report reveals that there are many non-structural issues, you may not have any rights in this regard.
If the building inspector finds that a building is not structurally sound, the buyer has the rights as they’re set out in the contract (for example, you may be able to terminate the contract if the seller doesn’t wish to fix the issue). This type of condition does not cover general maintenance or non-structural issues, such as non-structural dampness, electrical wiring, roof coverings, paint and finishes, to name a few.
If you’re concerned about the general state of the property, it may be advisable to make the contract ‘subject to a building report to the buyers’ satisfaction’ rather than a ‘significant structural defect report’.
It’s important to note that the time frame generally stated on the contracts for the inspection is fairly tight (for example, ‘within five days of acceptance or finance approval’). If the inspection is not completed on time, you may lose the benefit of the condition(s) as stated in the contract. You can request a longer period on the contract so that the date for building inspection is not required until after finance approval. This means you’re not incurring the expense before your finance is even approved.