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Conveyancer beware: underground cable nightmare

Edition 7 // December 2013 
Did you know that conveyancers and solicitors could be held liable if they do not advise their clients to conduct a telecommunications’ cable search of their property prior to purchase?

With the rapid growth in sub-development activity and the increasing encroachment of what was once vacant farmland, a growing number of properties are at risk of underground network cables passing through them or of non-standard cable installations, so much so that many major law firms are now making telecommunications’ searches mandatory for their clients.
According to Telco Searches, Australia’s only provider of the comprehensive Telco Cable Search, about one in 10 properties have the potential for this problem.

Under the Telecommunications Act, cables don’t need to be placed in an easement and can be located anywhere, even on private property. While a Title Search will identify easements for the placement of water, sewer and power cables, it will not identify telecommunication cables.
For those whose property straddles a cable this means they may be prohibited from building additional structures, landscaping or conducting earthworks because of carrier maintenance requirements or because of the risk of damaging cables. In many instances this could leave property owners and developers unable to develop the property and could potentially devalue the property should it be sold.

The plan above shows an optic fibre cable travelling across the property – it is OPTIC FIBRE and is extremely costly to repair. This cable affects this property in two ways:
·        Because the cables cannot be obstructed this may affect the placement of new development. Moving the cables is a costly exercise!
·         If the cables are damaged during works undertaken, the carrier would seek damage costs in the form of fines, material repair costs and labour costs. Additionally if there are businesses in the area that rely on the service, they could sue the carrier for loss of business and the carrier could then on-sue the property owner for costs. Damage costs could be thousands, potentially millions of dollars, depending on the type of service that is damaged.
The Telco Cable Search also identifies the presence of sub-standard or non-standard communication network installations that may require rectification after purchase. These include:

·        The property connection cable entering the property via a neighbouring property instead of directly from the road or conversely a neighbour’s connection cable entering the property instead of directly from the role.
·        An underground communications network running across the property to save costs instead of running through a road reserve.
·        A buried solid network. Instead of being in a conduit, the cable network is buried in the ground. A communications network has a recommended depth of 600mm below the surface of the ground however this is rarely adhered to. Without protective cover these cables can become brittle and are easily damaged, particularly if the network is optic fibre which is very costly to repair.
Unfortunately those with sub- standard installation on their property are at a greater risk of digging up cabling hidden underground and of having to bear the costs of restoring the services.

Determined to safeguard both the property owner and conveyancers and solicitors representing them, SAI Global Property, has broadened access to Telco Cable Search by making it available via our online information broking platform, Search Manager.

The Telco Cable Search will search all known carriers such as Telstra, Optus, UEComm, AAPT and PowerTel and a host of other providers, identifying bot
h the presence of underground network cables and problems with these networks.

Telco Cable Search
results will be delivered via email within 3–7 business days.

To conduct a search via Search Manager, conveyancers and solicitors will need to provide as much information as possible about the property to ensure that all background checks are conducted thoroughly and to ensure expedient delivery of results. Information required includes:

·         Unit/street number, street name, suburb, state, postcode of the search site 
·        Lot/plan.
·        Date of settlement
·        User contact details including: name, address, phone and email
Note: Power cables will not appear in the search result and an independent search will be required.
We recommend visiting Telco Cable Searches web site to view a case study:
For more information, contact our Customer Care team on 1300 730 000 or email

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