The vendor must deliver the property to you in the same condition it was on the day of sale, except for fair wear and tear. Plenty can go wrong with the property between the day of sale and settlement. The purchaser has the right to inspect at any reasonable time during the 7 days before settlement. This article deals with what can happen when a purchaser fails to inspect the property shortly before settlement.

Inferior curtains

James was too busy to inspect the property before settlement. After settlement he discovered the vendor replaced the curtains in the lounge room with smaller inferior curtains on large cheap hangers, exposing the top part of the window. The vendor denied replacing the curtains and refused to reinstate, inviting James to sue. James was advised the cost to sue was more than the cost to buy new curtains. This happened!

Here’s some more examples:

I didn’t expect a jungle!

When Josie bought her home the lawn was freshly mown and the garden well maintained. After the day of sale the vendor moved interstate for work and didn’t cut the grass or maintain the garden. Josie didn’t inspect before settlement and was confronted by a jungle in the back yard with grass 25-centimetres high. Deciding not to sue the vendor because he was interstate and because of the cost, Josie spent countless hours over several weekends reinstating the garden.

Static on the television

The vendor removed the television antenna before settlement without replacing it. Sophia did a final inspection of the property but didn’t check the television for reception. After settlement Sophia’s television produced static white snow and a horrible noise. While admitting he took the antenna, the vendor refused to replace it or compensate Sophia, rightly betting Sophia would not sue the vendor in VCAT for $250. It wasn’t worth it.

Inspect before you settle

Always inspect before you settle and inspect thoroughly. Call the agent to arrange and don’t take no for an answer. It’s your legal right to inspect. Don’t leave it to the last minute because there often won’t be enough time to resolve any dispute.

What should you do if you discover a problem?

Unless the contract makes settlement conditional on the problem being fixed you can’t delay settlement. Notify your lawyer immediately. Sometimes the problem can be resolved amicably. If the vendor promises to fix something before settlement, inspect again to check the problem has been fixed.

If the problem can’t be resolved before settlement, you may nominate up to $5,000 to be withheld from the settlement proceeds and paid to an agreed third person (normally a lawyer) provided you contribute the same amount. This money is held until the dispute is determined.