Why many homebuyer surveys are MEANINGLESS for woodburners, multi fuel stoves and open fires…

“Well I paid for a full homebuyers’ survey – how come it didn’t pick up on this?”

That’s the usual reply when I tell a customer, who has just moved into their new home, that their woodburner, multi fuel stove or open fire which came with the property is actually dangerous.

It’s frustrating for me, and upsetting for the customer.

But the truth is that surveys very rarely, if ever, pick up on dangerous solid fuel appliances. If you read the comments in the survey, they either just note that an appliance is present, or they’ll advise further inspection.

Usually, many prospective buyers assume that because nothing negative has appeared in the report, all should be well. That simply isn’t the case.

The plain fact is that unless you have had your appliance specifically inspected and swept, there is unlikely to be anything noteworthy in a property survey.

In fact, some of the things which are written in property surveys are simply wrong.

I remember going to one customer who showed me her survey and it said “Fireplace blocked off and can no longer be used.” The “blocked off” bit was a damper which had been there since the house was built and part of the fireplace. I simply pushed it back, swept the flue, did all the other necessary checks and inspections. That flue has now been in use for the past 2 years…

Other surveys I’ve seen mentioned nothing even though the appliance was immediately dangerous and should not be used.

Some house sales require the vendor to produce a Certificate of Compliance (usually from HETAS) to confirm the appliance was installed in accordance with Approved Document J of the Building Regulations. While useful to have, it’s worth noting that even a correctly installed appliance can become dangerous over time because of wear and tear, misuse or inappropriate modifications by the homeowner after the installers have left.

If you are buying a property with a solid fuel appliance such as a woodburner, open fire or multi fuel stove, I strongly advise that it is swept and inspected by a registered, professional chimney sweep. They can carry out checks and issue appropriate advice and paperwork.

I’ve said before that, in my opinion, it’s time for the legal and property professions to do more to alert people to these problems, as they are a regular occurrence. Whether they heed these growing calls remains to be seen.

In the meantime, it’s a case of remembering that old phrase Caveat Emptor. Or in plain English: Buyer Beware…

Mr Soot Chimney Sweep is a HETAS Approved Sweep, and member of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, offering a professional and friendly chimney sweep and stove service in Wigan, Stockport, St Helens, Ormskirk, Chorley and surrounding areas. Book Mr Soot online or call 0800 0541154.

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