Isabel Njoroge recently bought an apartment with her husband off Ngong Road, Nairobi. After a heavy downpour in Nairobi last week, the roofs started leaking before some cracks started emerging from the walls.
Her attempts to have the private developer repair the leakages and cracks have not been successful, however.
“We feel duped after paying over Sh10 million for the apartment which looked excellent from both inside and outside,” says Njoroge. “Even the sinks are not of good quality.”
She notes that developer should have had the courtesy to inform them of defects in the apartment early: “This is daylight robbery…I should have paid less for the apartment and spend a portion on repairs.”
Cases of newly-purchased houses that develop structural defects within one year of moving in are not new. Like the Njoroges, the affected buyers often realise that their dream houses are a result of poor workmanship after cracks start emerging from walls and roofs leak.
Private developers who cunningly sell such defective houses may be hiding behind the legal principle of caveat emptor or “buyer beware”, which basically notifies a buyer that what they are buying is subject to all defects! Some of the developers include a clause on caveat emptor in sale agreements, which some buyers overlook.
Unfortunately, most prospective homeowners are unaware of the legal principal of caveat emptor in some transactions. Legally, the rule is not designed to shield sellers who engage in fraud by making misleading representations on quality and condition.
It means prospective investors must be diligent when purchasing property to avoid accusing the seller for alleged fraud. Moreover, it summarises the concept that a purchaser must examine, judge, and test a product considered for purchase.
Therefore, buying a house with no professional third-party inspection and later seeking to reverse the sale may have no legal remedies over caveat emptor.
However, some countries have sought to defuse the powerful effects of the doctrine by introducing consumer protection or sale of goods legislation.
Locally, involvement of registered professionals like lawyers, valuers, architects or home inspectors could increase costs but save the heartbreaks of a defective home.
It is wise to involve professionals to inspect the house before signing a sale agreement with the seller.
Some physical inspections of homes reveal nasty shocks like poor foundations, which you cannot notice with a common eye.
Therefore, never rush into signing a sale agreement after convincing yourself that it looks ‘good’ from the outside and inside — let the professional give it a clean bill of health. Normally, a good conveyancer (property lawyer) ensures the sale agreement is dependent upon the outcome of inspection by professionals.
The professional would inspect structural elements like construction of walls, ceilings, floors, roofs and the foundation. Others are exterior evaluations like wall covering, landscaping, grading, driveways, drainage, fences, sidewalks, doors and windows.
The professionals would tell you that a lot should be looked at in a roof like framing, ventilation, type of construction and gutters. Systems and components like water heaters, furnaces, air conditioners, chimney, fireplace and sprinklers should not be overlooked.
Appliances, plumbing and electrical wiring cannot be overlooked lest a short circuit sparks off a fire in a new home.
After the inspection, it should be agreed in writing that the seller repairs some physical defects or a clause included in the sale agreement to cushion the buyer.
Most buyers who later cry foul over physical defects are those that rely on real estate agents without input of other professionals. A real estate agent can help you through the process of looking for a house, help you view the property and reach the landlord, but will not necessarily help you with inspection.
– The Standard.