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Are boiler documents really that important when buying or selling a property?

View profile for Natalie Sellers
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Are boiler documents really that important when buying or selling a property?

It is a regular enquiry that you will see solicitors raise when purchasing a property: ‘When was the boiler installed and please provide an up to date gas service record’. However why do we ask this question and why do we insist on it being answered?

You may have seen in the news recently that properties have been devastated by explosions and damage in the UK. Whilst the cause of this is still very much under investigation it does remind us of the importance of ensuing the gas appliances in the property are safe and working properly.

The law

In April 2005, it became a requirement for property owners to obtain a building regulation completion certificate for the installation of any new gas appliances. These could be your boiler, new gas cooker, fire etc.

Failure to obtain the same could mean that you run into issues in selling your property or indeed purchasing one. The reason for this is because compliance certificates inform your solicitor that at the time the unit/appliance was installed it complied with building regulations and gives you the comfort that the appliance was safe.

A building regulation completion certificate also confirms to your local authority that the appliance is safe. Failure to evidence this or obtain a certificate could result in enforcement action if the boiler becomes unsafe and requires their intervention.

Annual inspections

Of course, the building regulations completion certificate does not confirm that the boiler is safe to use at the time of completion and you may therefore see your solicitor requesting an up-to-date gas service record. This will be completed by a gas engineer on an annual basis and a record will be provided confirming that all gas appliances in the property are working and safe to use. This will give you the comfort in the knowledge that the boiler is being maintained and tested each year and it is in fact safe.

I am a seller and I cannot find any documentation for the boiler

The first step in enquiries regarding the boiler is to look at when you purchased the property. If it was recent or in the past couple of years you could approach the solicitor who purchased the property for you. They can then advise you on what they found on their investigations.

If you are unable to do this or purchased your property a number of years ago, your buyer may have obtained a local search which could reveal an entry that would confirm that the completion certificate was obtained and reported to the local authority. This should provide your buyer with the assurances they need to proceed as a completion was obtained, it is just the document that is missing. A copy can also be obtained from the Gas Safe website.

If it the case whereby your boiler was installed post April 2005 and there is no evidence that building regulations were obtained, your solicitor can obtain an indemnity policy that will insure your buyer against any enforcement action from the local authority. Regrettably you will not be able to provide the usual assurances that a completion certificate will bring however an up-to-date gas service record will provide confirmation to your buyer that the appliance is safe to use. 

Importantly, you should not make any approaches to the local authority or third parties and should only liaise with your solicitor if you cannot find the documentation as this could hinder your options in providing an indemnity policy.

Annual inspections and servicing are not a legal requirement and therefore as a seller you can refuse to provide or obtain this for your buyer if they request it. However, it can assist with your enquiries and provide your buyer with peace of mind that the appliances are safe.

I am a buyer what can I do to ensure my interests are protected?

A common phrase in conveyancing which you may hear as a buyer is ‘let the buyer beware’ or ‘caveat emptor’, this means as a buyer the burden is on you to inspect the property to ensure it is both legally and structurally sound.

Your solicitor will of course make the enquiries regarding the boiler, it is also important that you make your solicitor aware of any concerns or additional gas appliances that may have been installed to ensure they are checked.

If the seller does not hold the documentation for these appliances your solicitor will advise you accordingly on your next options which could include indemnity insurance, and an up to date inspection to ensure the appliances are safe.

Is it going to delay my transaction?

It is always difficult to say with these types of enquiries as it does depend on when the boiler was installed and if it is regularly serviced and checked. However there are plenty of solutions your solicitor can provide as a seller, and appropriate advice for you as a buyer. If you have any concerns your first point of contact should always be your solicitor who will be able to help.

Stephensons are always happy to help whether you are selling or buying and our conveyancing new business team can offer initial guidance on matters and provide you with a quotation on costs. Call us on  0161 696 6187. Alternatively you can use our online quote calculator to get an idea of your legal fees and one of our conveyancing specialists will call to discuss this with you.