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Be aware of the limitations in house buying surveys when it comes to chimneys

February 2, 2019

MONEY is the main concern for a mortgage company when a house buying survey is organised.

The company want reassurance that there are no structural issues in the property, for which a buyer is seeking a loan. The valuation survey informs the mortgage co about whether or not there is a risk involved.

That sounds good on the face of it but it’s wise to remember that the mortgage company is thinking of its own interests – not yours, if you’re the buyer concerned. If you want a structural survey for your own peace of mind, you’d best organise it yourself at an extra cost (sometimes you can ask the same surveyor).

The chimney though is often overlooked when it comes to such surveys. It’s not deemed to be of great importance to a mortgage firm. The surveyor will ensure that it seems in a good enough condition as a risk for the mortgage money to be lent  – but it’s unlikely he or she will properly review the suitability for fuel burning or whether there are any issues at the top of the flue (e.g. chimney capped-off correctly, bird’s nest, etc).

From your point of view, you probably want to make sure your chimney is in reasonable condition before you buy, arguably via your own professional survey. Any solid fuel appliance also needs a review, as well as open fires and this raises several concerns.

You may be lucky and the previous owner will leave you with paperwork showing who installed the appliance and when (it’s important to know how old an appliance is) and relevant sweeping certificates or invoices for chimney repairs. Yet that’s not guaranteed. And in any case, who should pay for the chimney and appliance/open fire to be in full working order before funds are released for the mortgage and before you move into the property? Ask your solicitor – it’s an important point to consider.

If you’re a tenant, strictly speaking it is the landlord’s responsibility to get the chimney swept but of course, chimney sweeping isn’t regulated. Anyone can be a chimney sweep – that’s the current legal position. So if the landlord organises for the chimney to be swept how can you, as the tenant, know that it has been done properly? From the landlord’s point of view, he or she should want the chimney to be swept properly because they wouldn’t want the property to be damaged as a result of a chimney fire, or any carbon monoxide issues.

Even so, the issue is open to interpretation and the landlord and tenant may not have the same view as what ‘chimney sweeping’ really means. Fortunately there is guidance for both landlords and tenants – read this advice from the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps.

The Guild wants to see clearer legislation when it comes to chimneys, open fires and appliances – with regard to house buying surveys and rental agreements. For the benefit of all concerned: sellers and buyers; landlords and tenants.

If you’re moving into a new home and have questions about your chimney or indoor fire – get in touch with a local member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps. Search the directory here.

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