The government introduced a stamp duty holiday in July 2020 to stimulate the housing market after being significantly impacted due to the coronavirus outbreak. The threshold for stamp duty was raised from £125,000 to £500,000, with many people saving tens of thousands of pounds. However, the stamp duty holiday is about to come to an end on 31st March 2021 [EDIT, this has now been extended to 30/09/21], just a few weeks away, so many people in the process of buying a new house are desperate to complete by that deadline.
In this rush to save what could be a significant amount of cash, many are cutting corners with regards to some of the basic checks you would normally make when buying a property. So, how can you make sure that the boiler is both safe and fit for purpose in a limited amount of time?
Technically, no. The seller has no legal obligation to conduct a boiler service prior to the sale. That said, you can ask them to do it as a goodwill gesture. They may be happy to do so in order to get the sale but if you are the one in a hurry to complete before the stamp duty holiday deadline, they may have the better negotiating position (of course, they may also need to complete for the property that they are buying).
Something you do have a right to ask for is the service history of the boiler. The seller is legally obliged to complete a Property Information Form, in which they should be honest and accurate about a number of aspects of the property’s state of repair. They should state on this, not only whether the boiler has been maintained but also any known issues. If none are declared, and the boiler has had a service within the last 12 months, this should be reasonable reassurance to give you peace of mind.
Remember that while annual servicing is recommended for boilers, it’s not a legal requirement, like car servicing so if they have not been diligent with this, they’ve not actually broken any laws. This may especially be the case at the moment having been through almost a year of lockdowns and covid restrictions where some people may have chosen not to go ahead with servicing due to shielding, for example. If it’s been a couple of years since its last service, this may not be much of a problem (though it may have invalidated any manufacturer warranty on the boiler). If it’s never had one, especially if it’s an older boiler, this could be a reasonable cause for concern.
Another option is to pay for your own boiler service, prior to completion. They don’t have to give you access to do this but, if they decline, this should ring some alarm bells. A boiler service is only around £70 for a gas combi-boiler so this could be well worth it. If it transpires that the boiler needs significant work or even replacing, you could potentially negotiate a reduction in price to reflect this.
Of course, all of this is dependent on being able to get a service done in time before the end of the stamp duty holiday, which is just a few weeks away. Larger plumbing and heating firms, such as Plumbcare.com, can usually be booked in very quickly but it also depends on being able to gain access and there are always a lot of other things to think about so close to completion.
If it’s not going to be feasible to do this before completion, and the boiler hasn’t had a service for quite a while, the most sensible course of action is to arrange a service once you have completed. If everything is fine, this will give you peace of mind. If there are major issues, and it’s reasonable to assume that the previous owners must have been aware but didn’t declare them on the Property Information Form, you may have some rights to go back to them for a contribution to the costs. The longer you leave it, the fewer rights you would have because they could argue that the problems could have started after the sale.
If you are either buying, or selling, and you want to arrange a boiler service quickly. Call us on 0800 032 6478 and we’ll get you booked in as soon as we can.
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