Case Study: The biggest lie told to a homebuyer

By Luke, Jun 7 2017 08:47PM

With a new baby and a change of job, Jasmine and Josh Colville looked forward to settling into a new home in Dorking which, on the surface, appeared faultless.

"We had fallen in love with the house, which had been beautifully decorated," says Hilary. "It was also close to Josh’s new job as a manager. We really weren't looking to move anywhere which needed any extra work."

Jasmines building society instructed a surveyor to inspect the property before purchase. "The survey showed that everything was fine, apart from an ageing boiler which needed replacing" she says.

On moving in, Jasmine employed a handy man, whom she found in in the local newsagent window, to install a chandelier. To the Colville’s dismay, the man said that was he able to, he would condemn the property.

"I was horrified," says Jasmine. "He told me that wiring was 'bodged', loose, not earthed and covered by brass plates."

She hired a registered electrician (Luke at the Electric Company (Dorking) LTD) for a second opinion. He was alarmed when he saw the wiring, which was back to front and had a fuse which had burnt out several times and replaced with a copper wire, indicating that there had been many problems in the past. This electrician is now re-wiring the entire house.

"It has been terrifying," says Jasmine. "I have a baby and a young son who could have put fingers into the sockets or come across bare wires.

"I would like to know how the person who lived here before us could play around with the electrics in such a way. No one in his right mind would fit a gas oven and assume it was safe, so how can someone bungle the electrics of a house and get away with it?"

The Colville’s building society has told them that, when they were shown around the property, the faulty electrics must have been hidden by the vendors.

"We had to bite the bullet and get the problem sorted out first, as quickly as possible, but are now looking for compensation for all the expense we have been put through," says Jasmine.

"We have contacted the surveyor, but they do not want to get involved, so we have spoken to the Financial Ombudsman Service to arrange compensation. We have been told we would have a case if there were bare wires - which there were - so we are now waiting for a response."

Tony Cable of the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting says:

"Most buyers assume that a home survey covers electrics, but it doesn't. It is important to get an electrical survey done by a properly registered electrician, especially if it is an old property.

"These can cost from £100 to £400, depending on the size of the property, the area and how much work needs doing. An in-depth survey - called a periodic inspection report - includes visual checks and tests of the complete electrical installation.

"This report will list what is wrong with the electrics and recommend the work needed to be done. We advise people to take the report to three contractors as a basis for estimates. The total re-wiring of a property can cost from £4,000 to £10,000. Ask the vendors before buying when they last had their electricity checked and say you would like to see the certificate.

"People can use the inspection report to negotiate money off the cost of buying the property, but only if they have the inspection done before they buy. If you haven't had a report done, look carefully at any comments made about the electrics in the survey results. You may have some sort of redress if the surveyor has failed to mention any electrical faults.

"After any electrical work has been done, you must get a Domestic Electrical Installation Certificate from the electrician to guarantee its safety and ensure that the correct tests have been carried out. If you are not given this certificate, alarm bells should ring."

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