Radon – should I be concerned?

As technology improves, so too does our awareness of new areas of concern when buying a house.  It was as recently as 1984 that radon was first discovered as a possible concern for homeowners, when a worker at a US nuclear plant set off the radioactivity sensors on his way INTO work.  Subsequent investigations showed that his house was subject to high levels of radon, and research into this naturally-occurring phenomenon started then.


Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which is formed when uranium in the ground beneath us decays.  It quickly dissolves when in contact with fresh air, but it can become trapped if it rises from the ground into a building.


Public Health England say that radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK, and attributes over 1,000 deaths each year to radon.  The risk from radon is of course higher for smokers and ex-smokers.


There is a common misconception that radon is only found in hilly areas, such as Devon, the Pennines and the Peak District, but there are localised radon hotspots all over the UK.  Where more than 1% of the properties in any given area are affected by radon, that area is classed as a Radon Affected Area.  When you are buying a property, the Local Authority search and the Environmental risk report will inform you if your property is in an Affected Area.  Properties with basements tend to be more at risk.


So what can you do if your new home is in a Radon Affected Area?  First, you can carry out tests in the property to ascertain the level of radon, if the seller has not already done so.  Then, if the tests reveal that radon is present in the property, remedial measures can be taken to protect the property.  This might involve the installation of a positive pressure fan, or a radon sump (effectively an exhaust pipe), and the Radon Association estimates that this may cost up to £2,000.  A buyer would ordinarily expect the seller to cover that cost, but so as not to delay the buying process it would be common for a retention sum to be held by the seller’s solicitors to cover the cost of the remedial works as and when they are carried out.  That way, the sale can proceed as normal, but the buyer will still be able to carry out the remedial work very shortly after moving in.


If you have any queries or concerns about radon, please contact Andy Roscoe at Meaby & Co for advice: andy@meaby.co.uk or call 020 7703 5034.