I do sometimes wonder whether, outside the conveyancing world, anyone has ever heard of radon gas. It raises its head during the house buying process, with both the local search and the environmental search referencing the background radon level and something called the “action” level.
Radon is a chemical element with the symbol Rn and atomic number 86, it is an extremely rare element because it decays so quickly but it is being continually created as it is the immediate decay product of thorium, uranium, and radium – (you know, the Marie Curie stuff) that hangs around for millennia. Unlike all the other elements in the decay chain, radon is, under normal conditions, gaseous and easily inhaled. It is often the single largest contributor to a persons background radiation dose. Radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking (although a large majority of radon-related lung cancers are caused by a combination off smoking and indoor radon gas). https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/air-pollution-radon-gas-and-cancer/can-radon-gas-cause-cancer
Cheerful stuff, isn’t it?
Why it would concern conveyancing solicitors?
Houses cost a lot of money and if you are paying a fortune for a roof over your head, you want to know that you are safe there.
The level of the hazard differs from place to place, because of the underlying geology, and it can build up indoors, which could be of huge concern to the buyers. If the property is in an area where more than 1% of homes is affected (a radon affected area) Public Health England recommends that a property is tested.
If your searches show that the property you are buying is affected, your conveyancing solicitor should be making enquiries of the current owners to see whether a test has already been done. If a test has not been done, the recommendation is that a test be made when the buyers move in.
In practice, if this was the case, we would expect to make a retention against the purchase price for any remediation works. This means that the buyers would hold some of the purchase money back pending the bills coming through for any work that was needed.
How are the risks mitigated?
Don’t panic, there is plenty that you can do to put it right, even if the house of your dreams is in an area that has high radon levels.
Find out whether you are in Radon Affected Area
If you are buying a house, then this will form part of the standard searches. If you are reading this for general information, then Public Health England have a facility for you to search an address. This currently costs £3.90 plus VAT. The link is here https://www.ukradon.org/services/address_search
If you want to order a test pack, this presently costs £52.80 and you can order it through Public Health England’s website here https://www.ukradon.org/services/orderdomestic. They will send you:
- 2 detectors, one for the living area and the other for the bedroom.
- Instructions on how to place them and how long to leave them there.
Practical Measures to Reduce Levels and the likely cost:
Radon Sumps: up to £2,000.00
Positive Ventilation: up to £700.00
Natural under-floor ventilation: up to £1,000.00
Active under-floor ventilation: up to £1,500.00
Positive ventilation: up to £1,000.00
Which measure you take depends on the construction of the property. Again Public Health England can help https://www.ukradon.org/information/reducelevels
If you are concerned that your home is in a radon affected area, then by all means give us a call on 01937 326006 or email us at email@example.com