After months of fretting and looking for what you wanted, you finally liked one house. It had everything you were willing to pay for—it was at a good location, had ample infrastructure, was airy and bright and the windows opened to a decent view. Moreover, since it was a house on resale, you didn’t have to wait for two or, perhaps, four, years to move in. You settled for it without thinking much, only to realize about a month later that it was a decision taken in a hurry.
Consider this: A month after moving in, you discover that the two rooms on the terrace were an illegal construction or that the drainage system was internally broken. In such a situation, you would not only have to settle the legal hurdles arising out of the illegal constructions, but also pay for construction-related anomalies.
Graphic: Yogesh Kumar. Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
You could have avoided all this and more. In the process, you may end up paying for the experts you would have to hire, but that may help you save much later. Here are some checks you should run, with the help of experts if required, to ensure you are getting a fair deal.
Even if the smooth finish on the walls and the excellent woodwork looks good, pause a bit. There are aspects you can never check yourself. For example, whether there are two-brick walls. Walls with a single layer of brick are considered weaker than double-layered ones.
Hire a structural engineer to run this basic check. Although property documents give the floor and building plans, you would need an expert’s help to find out about other anomalies, if any.
Structural engineers issue certificates after inspecting the building. Says Dikshu C. Kukreja, partner, CP Kukreja Associates, a Delhi-based architect firm: “Structural engineers issue the structural stability certificate. At the time of buying, you should specifically ask for this certificate. Approval documents must have a copy of this. This certificate proves that the building has been built as per the plan drawn by an architect.”
Vidhur Bhardwaj, director, The 3C Company, a developer with projects in Delhi-National Capital Region, suggests, “The anomalies relating to the structure can be cross-checked by hiring structural engineers. They charge Rs3,000-5,000 to check for the compliance of the plan or new changes. In case you come to know about the changes after you have moved in, you will need a new set of approval.”
A structural engineer would also check the actual carpet area mentioned in the property documents, height of the ceiling, staircase inclination and strength of walls in respect to earthquakes.
Hammer rebound tests give an idea about the strength of the walls and plasters. Often, a small patch of plaster is cut to check the quality of bricks and the concrete used. Usually, a building that is at least 30 years old has such problems.
Remember that water tanks made of concrete is considered a part of the building plan and should be included in the approval plans. Says Pradeep Mishra, an independent real estate analyst: “Prospective buyers should look at this aspect in the property documents. Also, a cemented water tank may be a cause of worry as there may be a leakage at the base of the tank due to internal cracks.”
The electrical wiring may not be as new as the owner may claim. Take the permission of the owner and hire an electrician to do a thorough check. Also, ask the owner to explain you the wiring plan of the house so that the electrician can confirm the stability of the wiring system.
External fittings, such as electricity wires, water pipes and water tank add up to the overall cost of construction. A faulty installation of wires may lead to a short circuit. You definitely wouldn’t want that.
Don’t forget to check sanitary fittings and the drainage system. An internal seepage can damage the plinth of the house. Here, too, you would need external help.
Says Arvind Srivastava, assistant engineer, Water Works Department, Uttar Pradesh: “For this, a plumber could be hired to check for breakages in the piping system. They close all water exits for a day and then perform a pressure gauge test that gives the exact location of the seepage.”
On average, sanitary pipes have a life of 15-20 years. “These need to be replaced if the building has been there for 25-30 years,” adds Srivastava.
Nothing is illegal
An illegal construction could prove to be the most troublesome. To sort this out, you would need to spend a lot of money as well as time. While visiting the house, you may not notice a small room on the terrace or may, simply, not be in the know that it’s illegal.
To check this, refer to the original plan of the building and compare it with the latest building plan. This will give you an idea of any added structure in the planned development. Ideally, the owner should have the latest documents relating to the changes made in the recent past.
Says Supreme Court lawyer Sunder Khatri, “Alteration in the existing floor plan can be done after obtaining a permit from the local authority and the fire department. You would need this permit for every single alteration you make to the existing approved structure.”
Consult a lawyer to clear the mess before buying a house with an illegal construction.
You may have to pay for common spaces, such as parking, common staircase and lifts. Make sure you know how much you are paying and what for. Usually, the resident welfare association or the society charges a fee for these facilities. Check whether the owner has cleared his dues.
“Though the amount may be small, but accumulation of pending dues over a longer duration may add up to a few thousands. You can check with the welfare association’s office,” adds Mishra.
If you really like the house and don’t care about the problems, such information will give you the handle to bargain on the overall price or ask the owner to get things fixed before you buy the house.