GET IT RIGHT FIRST TIME: Sarah is here to help first time buyers get to grips with the conveyancing process. This month, she discusses radon gas and how to deal with it…
I’ve been told by my solicitor that the property I am buying is potentially affected by radon gas. What does that mean?
Your solicitor will have carried out a number of searches on the property, including an environmental search. This reveals certain issues that can affect your new home, one of which is radon gas. If you haven’t bought a property before, it may be something you’ve never come across.
What exactly is radon gas?
Radon is a radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell or taste. It comes from rocks and soil found across the UK and you need special equipment to detect it.
The amount of radon in the air we breathe outside is very low, but it can climb higher inside buildings. It is measured in becquerels per cubic metre of air (Bq m3) and the average level inside UK homes is about 20Bq m3. This gives us half of the radiation we can tolerate from all sources.
High levels of radon are harmful, as the radioactive elements formed by its decay can be inhaled and enter your lungs, causing localised damage that can lead to cancer.
What should I do now radon has been identified?
If it is revealed the property you are buying may be subject to radon gas, you can have a test carried out. The risk report is completed simply by using the postcode and will confirm if the house you wish to buy is in an affected area.
Should this test confirm the results of the environmental search, you can look to have radon detectors placed within the property. These will measure the levels experienced over a three-month period, so the results can be analysed and posted back to you to determine how much of a risk is posed.
If high levels of radon are found, what should I do?
If tests reveal the property is within an area with high radon levels, you may wish to continue the purchase, but undertake remedial work to reduce the risk.
There are several precautions that can be taken, including simple measures such as sealing around loft hatches and large openings in the floor, as well as adding extra ventilation.
Alternatively, you could cost up installing an active radon sump fitted with a fan, which is the most effective way to reduce indoor levels. Sumps work best under solid or suspended floors, if the ground is covered with concrete or a membrane.
Good ventilation can reduce radon concentrations, so you could also look at installing a small, quiet fan to blow fresh air, usually from the roof space, into the building. Natural underfloor ventilation is an option if the property has a suspended ground floor, where a fan is used to blow or extract air from the space beneath.
Will I have to pay for any work required to the property?
If you decide you want to have the property you are purchasing tested for radon, following the search results, you will need to make your solicitor aware as quickly as possible.
We can arrange for the house purchase to continue, but with some of the money held by the sellers’ solicitor, until you have the test results. If any remedial work needs to be carried out, the cost can then be covered by this retention.
Your surveyor should be able to answer any queries you have about radon gas. It may also be worth visiting the Public Health England UK Radon Gas website, which provides further guidance.
If you are a first-time buyer with a question about moving home, our residential property expert, Sarah Gaunt, would love to hear from you. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org