As a buyer, once you’ve finally completed and have the keys to your new home, one of the first things you’ll want to do is relax and enjoy it. The last thing you’d want is to discover nasty surprises that the previous occupier failed to disclose before finalising the sale.
Unfortunately, this can and does sometimes happen – so what should you do if this happens to you?
A seller’s obligations
When buying a property, it is easy to fall in love with a house based on its kerb appeal. Yet, you will still need to do your due diligence to ensure the property is in a condition in which you are willing to buy it.
However, there is also an onus on the seller to share as much about the property as they can.
Throughout the conveyancing process, the vendor will be asked to disclose various pieces of information about the property and the state it is in. If these questions aren’t answered honestly, the seller could be sued under The Misrepresentation Act.
The property information form (TA6) is a key document for information gathering. It covers a wide range of issues including boundaries, disputes or complaints, as well as planning and building control. If the seller is reluctant to share information on the property information form it is likely your conveyancer will push for further clarity in their ‘additional enquiries’ phase, therefore, it’s better to be upfront from the beginning rather than causing delays further down the road.
Instructing a property survey
Depending on the state of a property and its age, a buyer must think carefully about whether or not they instruct a chartered surveyor to carry out a property survey or not.
This is a buyer’s opportunity to obtain some assurance before the sale completes that they know what they’re getting themselves into. If something key is missed off the survey at the time of inspection, then the surveyor could be held responsible for compensation.
As a minimum, most buyers, if purchasing a property with the financial support of a mortgage, will need a valuation survey.
This is to prove to their lender that the property is indeed worth the amount being asked by the vendor and is enough to secure against the Loan To Value (LTV) amount being borrowed.
However, this won’t uncover any structural risks or more detail on the condition of a property. It’s for this reason that a HomeBuyer Report or Building survey may be worth considering for your peace of mind.
Take a look at our article on the different types of property survey for further information.
What could be deemed as an undisclosed problem?
After you’ve moved into your new home there may be issues that crop up which you weren’t aware of when you viewed the property previously.
It is worth stressing that not all problems are things you’d necessarily get in touch with your seller about. A broken heating system that had been listed as working in the fixtures and fittings list would be a viable example, whereas a dripping tap may be considered to fall outside of the remit of reasonableness.
So what undisclosed problems could impact the value of a property?
• The presence of Japanese knotweed
• Neighbour disputes
• Structural defects
• A new planned development in the area that could affect a property’s value i.e a major road
• Damp/dry rot
• Works that have been carried out without planning permission
As a consumer, if we find a fault with a product, we take it back to the shop we bought it from and either ask for a replacement or a refund. However, it’s not that simple in the property world.
As a buyer you will need to prove the following to make a claim against the vendor:
• The misrepresentation is a fact and not your opinion.
• The information influenced your decision to buy the home.
• The information was false at the time contracts were signed.
• Your asset has been significantly impacted to your detriment
You usually have up to six years to start proceedings against a vendor. This is because a buyer often won’t know about a problem until they’ve lived in the property for a while.
In almost all situations, it’s best to speak with a property solicitor or your conveyancer to ascertain how strong a case you may or may not have as soon as you are aware of it.
If your claim does go ahead and you are successful, you will be awarded damages. The amount awarded is usually the difference between the amount paid for the property and the amount it is worth in lieu of the damages.
As ever, a good conveyancer should be able to help minimise the likelihood of misrepresentation by asking appropriate questions in the enquiries and additional enquiries process of a purchase, and if you’re looking to move home and you’re in need of a licensed conveyancer to manage your property move get an instant quote from Enact today.