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Most common legal issues identified by surveyors during pre-purchase surveys

Did you know, that during a survey, in addition to the condition of the property, your surveyor will also be looking out for potential issues which will help your solicitor ensure all legal risks are mitigated against.

There are numerous potential issues, but the following covers the the most common ones we see!

Planning Compliance and Planning Exemption Certs

If there have been any alterations to the property since it was originally built, including extensions, conversions, porches and some renovations, those alterations may require a certificate of planning compliance, or a certificate of planning exemption.

If the work required planning permission e.g. a front extension, the vendors would be required to provide a "Certificate of Compliance" which is a document which confirms the work carried out is in line with either the planning permission or planning retention. This document can usually be provided by an engineer, architect or Building Surveyor.

If the work does not require planning permission e.g. a rear extension under 40sq meters, the vendor would be required to provide a "Certificate of Planning Exemption" again, this would be required by a engineer, architect or Building Surveyor and confirms that in their opinion, the works carried out do not require planning permission i.e. it is exempt from planning.

If your surveyor identifies any changes to the original property, they will note their opinion on whether or not the work requires a Certificate of Exemption or Certificate of Compliance in their written report. Your solicitor would then request these from the vendor's solicitor.

Examples of Alterations Requiring Certificates

Here are some of the more common works which requires a certificate of exemption or compliance

  • Rear Extension Under 40sq meters* - Certificate of Exemption

  • Rear Extension Over 40sq meters - Certificate of Compliance

  • Side or Front Extensions* - Certificate of Compliance

  • Porch over 2sq meters - Certificate of Compliance

  • Satellite or Arial on from of chimney - Certificate of Compliance

  • Attic conversion into non-habitable room with no change to roof - Certificate of Exemption

  • Attic conversion with dormer - Certificate of Compliance

  • Garage converted into a room* - Certificate of Exemption

  • Shed (fixed structure) under 25sq meters* - Certificate of Exemption

*Additional Requirements Needed

How common are issues with certs?

It is unusual to find a second-hand property over 20 years old which has not had some kind of alterations which require planning or are exempt. Thankfully in the vast majority of cases, the vendor will either already have the cert required or will be able to get one quickly.

Occasionally, you will encounter a stubborn vendor who will point blank refuse to get the required cert. In this case your solicitor will advise on the risks and potential courses of action, however this is a very rare situation!

Issues with Boundaries

When you buy a property, you are not just buying the physical structure, but also the rights to the plot of land the property is on. So it is important to ensure the boundaries are in order with no potential issues.

Boundary Markings

The boundary of a property should be clearly marked out. This is usually done with artificial boundaries like fences and walls, but can also be natural boundaries like streams and hedgerows. At a minimum, the boundary should be marked out with stakes.

Occasionally we'll stumble across a property with no boundary markings. This is more common in rural properties, but can also happen in housing estates.

It also occasionally pops up on new builds where the boundary structures have not been built by the time of the snag list.

If your surveyor flags that a boundary is not clearly marked, your solicitor will advise that this is done before signing contracts.

Boundary encroachment and overhang

Any structures built on the property being surveyed or the neighbouring property (e.g. extensions and sheds) should be within the boundaries and items like gutters or vents should not extend beyond the boundary line.

If there are any signs of encroachment or overhang noted by your surveyor, your solicitor will advise you on the potential risks involved and check with the vendor's solicitor to see if any agreements or provisions related to the encroachment or overhang are already in place.

Boundary and Land Reg Map not matching

If your solicitor can get the land reg map before the survey takes place, the surveyor will check the boundary while at the property to ensure it matches the map.

Even though this is a visual check only and no mapping equipment is used, the

surveyor can still identify issues.

If there are any issues identified, your solicitor will investigate the matter and if necessary they may recommend insisting on updated maps being submitted.

Services Not Within Boundary of Property

All of the services used by a property like water wells, septic tanks or oil tanks, should be located within the property boundaries. Occasionally, we will encounter a property where the surveyor is unable to locate a service like a septic tank or well on the property.

This is more common in rural properties where a portion of land had been sold to a family member, quite often if the properties were close to each other, they could have shared services.

If the septic tank or well is on a neighbouring property, your solicitor will need to make sure that provisions are in place to ensure access or maintenance.

The written report should at a minimum note the location of each service and ideally have a photo to accompany the comment.

How common are boundary issues?

Apart from encroachment/overhang seen in <10% of surveys, boundary issues are fairly rare. In most cases where they do appear, it is in rural properties where the boundaries are not clearly defined.


Whatever surveyor you choose, it is vital that they are considering this information and noting any findings in the written report. This will ensure less back and forth and delays between you, your solicitor and surveyor.

At we have a section specifically for the attention of your legal advisor which will include any notes related to the above. This helps to ensure a smoother process and get you over the line quicker!

To book your survey with us, just go to and click on "Get Survey Now".


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