What Do You Need To Know About Beetle Certificates of Compliance?
Category Buying Property
Why do you need a Beetle Certificate of Compliance (COC)?
Certifies that the accessible wood of permanent structures on the property are free from certain wood-destroying beetles - particularly in coastal regions where woodborer beetle are more likely to occur.
From the 1940’s to 1960’s wood destroying insects were infesting properties on an epidemic scale. In some instances, the infestations were so severe that roof structures were on the verge of collapse.
The financial institutions who provided bond finance to a buyer insisted that the property to be mortgaged should be declared free of wood-destroying insects - to be assured that the timbers within the property are structurally sound and that, particularly the roof, is unlikely to collapse thus negatively affecting their investment.
This established the practice for suitably qualified people to carry out inspections and where infestation was identified, to recommend remedial measures to eradicate such infestation. This requirement was then written into the Offer to Purchase and it became the seller’s obligation to provide the Beetle Free Certificate.
Fortunately woodborer beetle infestation is nowadays fairly rare, occurring more regularly in the older areas where the homes were built prior to the late seventies. After this period the timbers had to be SABS approved and treated to prevent infestation.
When is a Beetle COC required?
The property seller is required to obtain the certificate prior to transfer. Best for the inspection and remedial work to be carried out a.s.a.p. after the deal is concluded due to bank and bond requirements and obviously prior to purchaser moving in; however, the parties can agree it is the purchaser's responsibility to obtain.
The Beetle COC is usually not required in sectional title schemes as these are generally more recent buildings with little or no timber. However, where there is a risk of beetle infection in a sectional title unit, for example where an old building was sectionalised or where you have a top floor unit with wooden beamed roofing, it is advisable to provide for a beetle certificate.
What does a Beetle COC Cost?
Borer beetle infestation is fairly rare, especially in modern homes. So in most cases, where no further remedial action is required, the cost of a Beetle Certificate will only be the beetle inspection fee.
Where further remedial work is required the inspector will furnish you with a report and a quote to perform the remedial work. Unfortunately they cannot ascertain the extent of remedial work until a full beetle inspection has been performed. A Beetle COC can only be issued once the remedial work has been carried out.
What is checked during a Beetle COC Inspection?
The major difference in the Beetle Certificate and the other four COCs is that the inspector does not tell you what must be done, but you tell them what is required through the beetle clause in the deed of sale signed by the relevant parties. It is basically a contractual obligation between the seller and buyer.
Although the exact wording and requirements may vary from contract to contract there are certain basics that are normally covered by the vast majority.
In the Western Cape there are three Wood borer Beetles that are commonly specified:
ANOBIUM PUNCTATIUM (commonly known as furniture beetle) - found predominately in wooden flooring
HYLOTRUPES BAJULES (commonly known as the European house borer) - found predominately in roof trusses, fascia boards and wendy houses
OXYPLERUS NODIERI (commonly known as the longhorn beetle) - found predominately in roof trusses, fascia boards and wendy houses
Some contracts may call for more than just the three common wood borer beetles above, and some less.
Another important wording is whether it is a requirement to check timbers in the main dwelling only or all timbers on the property, which would then include, wooden gates, fences, pergolas, Wendy Houses etc.
Fortunately active wood borer beetle infestation, especially in modern homes and properties, is quite rare so qualified beetle inspectors perform a thorough visual inspection of the complete property, but remedial action will only be required if their findings are something that is called for in the specific deed of sale beetle clause.
Inspectors are only seeking for signs of active beetle infestation – not for historical inactive infestation. Borer beetle infestation may not be visible yet as the larvae can live undetected inside the timber for years.
What is not checked during a Beetle COC inspection?
The Beetle Certificate is NOT a pest control certificate and inspectors do not check for, or treat, common pests like cockroaches, fleas, rats and mice etc. They are only concerned with woodborer beetles.
Timber can only be inspected if it is accessible and visible to the naked eye. The inspector cannot check timber for borer beetle if it is under fitted carpet, inaccessible roof spaces or sub floors etc. They are only concerned with “active” beetle infestation. Borer beetle infestation may not be visible yet as the larvae can live undetected inside the timber for years.
Wooden fences and wooden “wendy houses” on the property are not inspected – unless the sales agreement specifically makes provision for such an inspection.
What is the validity period of the Electrical COC?
A Beetle/Woodborer COC has a very limited period of validity (normally 3 to 6 months) and is usually only valid for concluding the sales agreement / transfer of the property. Annual beetle inspections is recommended for property with a timber infrastructure – the sooner an infestation is detected the less expensive the repairs will be. The larva of certain species of woodborers can be dormant for an indefinite period of time (a few weeks up to a few years) and then suddenly become active again.
Beetle Inspection is a visual inspection only, there is currently no device with which a home can be scanned for beetle infestation – as only the trained eye of a qualified beetle inspector can physically “see” and identify the tell-tale signs of an active woodborer infestation.
What are the legal requirements of the Beetle COC?
The Beetle Certificate is not governed by any law, but a practice that has evolved over the years. There are therefore no specific legal or required guidelines as to what must be done to certify a property borer beetle free.
Only a qualified wood borer inspector who is a certified member of the South African Pest Control Association (S.A.P.C.A) – i.e. a listed entomologist, can issue a COC. Parties can contract out of this; however, if parties agree that no certificate is necessary and bank requires it for purchaser's bond, then that is for the purchaser's expense.
The seller that instructs a company to carry out the COC inspections, must take care to ensure that the company has liability insurance should something go wrong, otherwise the seller may still be responsible once the buyers have moved in.
What is the procedure in obtaining a Beetle COC?
The person requesting the inspection does not have to be the person who pays for the inspections and could be the estate agent, attorney or another person. The inspector should however first contact the seller to explain the procedure and costs and to obtain their permission to proceed with the requested inspections.
Once the client has paid the inspection fee to the inspector and should there be no beetle infestation, a Beetle COC will be issued.
What can be done in the case of an active woodborer infestation?
- The inspector / contractor can simply remove and replace the infected timbers.
- Alternatively the inspector can drill into the timbers and inject a poison that kills the larva.
- In more extreme cases it may be necessary to fumigate the entire building.
The beetle inspector will however advise on the recommended course of action in each case.
- What if I purchase a property and no beetle certificate is provided?
Should there have been beetle infestation at the time of contracting and the seller fails to disclose this, he would not be able to rely on the voetstoots clause to avoid liability.
- How do I prepare for a beetle treatment of the floors in my home?
It is advisable to keep small animals and children away for the first 24 hours. The property can be properly ventilated a few hours after the treatment and a mild solution of soap and water including a few drops of essential oil like lavender can be applied directly to the floors.
Author: Tecno Group / Electrabug / Inspecto / EDOSS /