After the upheaval of moving home, your focus will be on settling in – the last thing you need from your new house is an unpleasant surprise. Unfortunately, sometimes a buyer will discover an expected problem with the property, which should have been disclosed by the seller. But what can they do about it?
The onus is on the buyer to fully investigate a property. However during conveyancing – that’s the legal process of selling and buying a home – the seller will be asked various questions about the state of their property which they must answer honestly. If they don’t they can be sued for compensation under The Misrepresentations Act.
The property information form that a seller will fill out, covers a wide range of issues. A seller’s responses must be full and truthful – they can refuse to answer a question but that should make buyer’s suspicious and cause them to rethink the purchase. The duty to be truthful extends beyond this form to all communications with the seller whether they’re in person or through a solicitor or estate agent.
Equally sellers should not hide or cover potential problems with a property, such as large cracks or evidence of damp, that might prevent a buyer or surveyor discovering them.
Commissioning a survey
In addition to a thorough conveyancing process, many buyers also commission a survey. This involves a qualified chartered surveyor inspecting a property for defects and potential problems. You can choose how comprehensive the survey is, some give an overview of the condition of a home others take a detailed look at the structure. Not only do they provide extra peace of mind, you can go back to the surveyor and seek compensation if they have missed a major fault.
Discovering an undisclosed problem
When you buy a home you are likely to discover lots of small snags that you’ll want to fix – a dripping tap, a sticky window and so on. If you are in a new build home the developer should return to resolve this kind of issue, otherwise these aren’t the kind of problems you would go back to a buyer for.
However, undisclosed problems that could have an impact on the value of a home are. These include:
- Disputes with neighbours.
- Planned development in the area that could affect a property.
- Damp or dry rot.
- Structural defects.
- The presence of Japanese Knotweed, a fast growing and very damaging plant.
- Works that do not have planning permission.
Seeking compensation from the seller
Whether the misrepresentation was fraudulent (the seller lied on purpose), negligent (they didn’t take enough care to provide the right information) or innocent (they believed they were telling the truth), you can take action if you discover this kind of issue.
As a buyer you will have to show:
- 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.
- You have suffered loss because of it.
If a defect emerges between exchange of contracts and completion the buyer can refuse to go through with the sale, request a reduction in the price of the house or ask for damages to be paid.
Often it takes living in a home to find out a problem such as a difficult neighbour or that planning permission hasn’t been granted for an extension. Initially you should talk through the problem with a property solicitor to establish whether you have a case. You usually have six years from buying a home to start proceedings.
If the dispute is settled in your favour you will be awarded damages. This may equal the difference between the value of the home when you bought it and the true value once the defect has been taken into account. Depending on the issue this can run into thousands of pounds.
It’s also possible to rescind the contract altogether, particularly in fraudulent cases, which would mean the seller buys their home back for the amount you paid. However this has a wider impact, especially if your purchase was part of a chain, that often makes it too complicated to carry out.
Selling with peace of mind
If you’re selling a home and are unsure of some information relating to it – perhaps work was done years before you owned it and you do not have the relevant documentation – you can protect yourself with indemnity insurance which your conveyancer can help you buy.
You could also consider selling your home to us. We buy homes of all shapes and sizes and in various conditions. We will organise and pay for any valuations we need, once we’ve finalised a price with you we won’t go back on that.
Working with us
When we buy your house, we’ll make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Not only will we deal with valuing your property, we’ll instruct and pay for independent solicitors. We’ll also get you moving quickly, we can buy your home in just seven days which means you’ll swiftly have access to the money you make from the sale.