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What Householders need to ask


Keywords :- How this page is structured
Thorn tree in the Garden
Nobody knows you when you are down and out
Do the brownfields shuffle
Emptor Caveat
The Seller's pack
Only one owner - never been off the tarmac
More tea Vicar?
Stop right there!
'Open the Pod Door HAL'
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A Householders Guide to Contamination   >

Thorn tree in the Garden


Well currently there is no contamination problem for householders. Afterall if you have just shelled out 250,000 for a 'loft development' in Docklands the last thing you want to hear is that :-

  1. it used to be an old timberyard
  2. it might be contaminated with arsenic
  3. it is now only worth 50,000

It might just be enough to make you vote out of office the very people who finally just got round to implementing the 1990 Environmental Protection Act.


 

Nobody knows you when you are down and out

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In the words of the song Nobody knows you when you are down and out

    'Once I lived the life of a millionaire
    spent all my money I just did not care,
    took all my friends out for a good time,
    bought bootleg whisky, champagne and wine,
    then I began to fall so low,
    lost all my good friends I did not have nowhere to go,
    .
    .
    no no nobody knows you,
    when you are down and out,
    .
    .
    when you finally get back up on your feet again,
    everybody wants to be your long lost friend
    its mighty strange,
    without a doubt,
    no nobody loves you,
    when you are down and out.


 

Do the brownfields shuffle


Depending on your shade of political hue, 60% or 65% of new homes should be built on brownfields (ie potentially contaminated) sites.

There is of course a slight problem in that most people don't want to live on a brownfield site, they would rather be on the edge of the country with a nice view and a supermarket just down the road!


 

Emptor Caveat

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In the real world, the concept of Caveat Emptor (buyer beware) reigns supreme, afterall you are big enough to wipe your own nose so why do you need the State to nanny you ?

Well if the concept of a seller's pack actually becomes law, there will be someone who will not only to hand you the tissue paper, but will also hold your nose with it whilst you blow!

Quite frankly asking the seller of the house to tell the buyer about all the properties potential faults sounds somewhat idealistic (like asking the French and the English to kiss and makeup and stop being nasty to each other)

So until that happens having 'A Householders Guide to Contamination' is a waste of time, as no sensible person is going to say to you :-

  • the estate agent tells me the house is worth 250,000
  • by the way there is potentially some dryrot
  • and we live next door to a timberyard
  • so why don't I knock 200,000 off the price for you


 

The Seller's pack

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No it is not the collected works of Inspector Clouseau, it is actually the latest government plan to reform housebuying in the UK. Intensive consultation during the first half of 1999 appears to indicate that most organisations involved in housebuying have endorsed the idea of a seller's pack. Apart from the actual customer that is - who is of course the seller of the house!

The seller's pack would include the following:-

  • information on title deeds
  • local authority searches
  • pre-contract enquiries

    and

  • a seller survey

The last item is the killer, as it would involve the householder having a survey carried out (at their expense) which would tell the buyer what was potentially wrong with the property.

Currently there are three types of survey

  1. a mortgage survey - which just says if the house is worth more than the mortgage you are taking out.
  2. a homebuyer survey - a quick and dirty survey just to make sure the house isn't about to fall down.
  3. a building survey - a comprehensive going over of the property from roof to basement, which tells you if there is dry-rot etc.

In the real world, a sensible buyer gets a building survey (formerly called a structural survey) done, and then uses it as a bargaining chip in order to pay less for the property.

Now you will of course have noticed that there is no mention of the words contaminated land as currently it is not the job of a surveyor to tell you that your house sits on a prime piece of retro industrial chic (a gasworks!). These guys have enough of a problem working out whether or not you have got rising damp, and if seems that you haven't, how to phrase their report to disclaim any liability if it turns out that you have !


 

Only one owner - never been off the tarmac

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Well of course to make this actually happen the government will have to make seller's packs compulsory, which means that there will have to be a penalty for non-compliance.

Now the question is do you make it a :-

  1. civil offence (like a parking ticket) which would be pretty ineffective
  2. criminal offence (like robbery) which might be a touch draconian

Maybe there is a 'third way' and it will be like current penalties for environmental offences, which are pretty laughable (a fine and a slap on the wrist)

It was planned that an announcement would be made in October 1999 (after the glorious conference), but John Prescot did not want to have his wife's hair ruffled, and so the environment once again became the big issue.

Word has it that whatever decision is announced, implementation of any new proposals is unlikely until 2003. This would tie-in quite nicely with the planned national roll-out of the National Land Information Service (NLIS). This is currently being piloted in Bristol and involves the use of online property information, which according to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors ( RICS) is the only way in which a seller's pack could realistically be assembled in a matter of days rather than weeks.


 

More tea Vicar?

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Word has it that the Reverend Blair's flock consumed some 35,000 cups of tea whilst on their 1999 Bournemouth outing at the sea-side. What is not so certain is whether Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchon were excluded for being too socially divisive. But at least they had a prodigal son to welcome back into the fold...

And then we had the poor Deputy Prime Minister castigated for jagging, rather than jogging, down the promenade. Obviously he must have carried out a Life Cycle Analysis and realised that the Carbon Dioxide produced by the Jaguar would have less effect on the ozone layer than the fossil-fuel propellant in his wife's hairspray!


 

Stop right there!

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Well spotted, its the intro to a song from Meatloaf's 'Bat out of Hell', but do you remember the rest of the song?

    I wanna know right now
    Is the land my home's on contaminated

Well there are ways of finding out fairly cheaply. First of all look on old Ordnance Survey maps - if you live in 'Quarry Lane' thats a bit of a giveaway as to what the prior landuse might have been!

The following companies also provide a reasonably cheap (under 100) listing of previous landuses, based on your property's postcode.

  1. FreeAgents
  2. Homecheck
  3. GroundSure
  4. Landmark Information Group
  5. Catalytic Data

Two more contenders for the supply of information about the whereabouts of contaminated land (or brownfields as they are known in this more politically correct era) have just appeared. Brownfield Sites is a listing of Industrial sites, whilst NLUD (National Land Use Database) is a government initiative to identify brownfield sites.

  1. Brownfield Sites
  2. NLUD


 

'Open the Pod Door HAL'

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Now to return briefly to the concept behind 'the sellers pack', you should also be able find out from your Local Authority (as of July 2001, under the terms of Section 57) whether the land your property sits on is potentially contaminated.

So expect a brief boost to the housing market at the start of 2001 as folk wake up to this window of opportunity just prior to the excrement impacting the air agitation device.

At this point, a stroppy computer called HAL will refuse to 'Open the Pod Door' for reasons that are all too apparent! and will dispatch posses of Estate Agents to spend eternity orbiting a council high-rise a few black-holes west of Jupiter.


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