Radon: What solicitors need to know

Helping a house buyer purchase their new home is a very rewarding process, but what should you do if that home is in a radon affected area?

Although the issue of this colourless and odourless gas does concern many home buyers across the country, it is those within affected areas that may need to take more action.

If this is your client, this is what we recommend:

Make sure you know what radon is

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas which can affect properties of all types, ages, locations and uses.

According to the UK Radon Association, “Many people are unaware of the risks associated with radon, and are surprised to learn that their property may be affected by something which they cannot see or smell.”

As it is an odourless and tasteless gas, the only way to get an accurate reading of the level of radon in a building is to use a specialist detector, which must be placed in the property before being sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Know how to find out the level of radon in an area

You can find out the levels of radon surrounding any property by using the UK radon map, which shows the levels of radon in different areas, however this is only a guide and remember, all buildings carry an element of risk.

So, what does this mean for you as a solicitor?

It is wise for all property sellers, especially those within affected areas, to test their property for radon before completing a sale.

Public Health England states that the ideal level of radon should be around 100 Bq m-3 and recommends that action should be taken if a property shows an average radon level of more than 200 Becquerels per metre cubed (200 Bq m-3).

In such cases, it is recommended that a retention is held by you, as the solicitor, to cover remediation work and further testing.

As the cost for remediation is around £800 - £2500+VAT, a typical retention sum is between £2000 - £3000.

This money, held back from the sale of the property for a period of six months, allows for moving in, the three-month test, analysis and receipt of the report.

Should the result be a below the action level, the retention money goes to the seller. Should the result be higher than the action level, the retained money pays for remedial works, with a timescale agreed to allow for this and a further test.

When might a retention not be suitable?

If the buyer is not moving into their new property immediately, or is planning major building work when they do, a retention may not be suitable as the lack of, or disruptive activity can disturb the gas which was otherwise not detectable.

We recommend that in these cases, the home buyer tests for radon as soon as they move in, or have completed their building work.

The most important thing to remember is that radon is no different than other minor building problem, such as rising damp or timber rot, which is routinely dealt with at the time of house purchase.

So, if your client is buying a house with a high level of radon, or you are simply unsure, then please contact us 01325 728039 or e-mail info@bcspreservation.co.uk.