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What Do I Have to Disclose When Selling a House?

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What Do I Have to Disclose When Selling a House?
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Selling your house is often a complicated process, with lots of checks, surveys, documentation, and opinions involved. Therefore, it is totally natural to feel lost about what you do or don’t need to disclose during the process.

While it’s natural to want to present your home in the best light, it’s crucial to remember that you are legally obliged to disclose problems. This transparency is not just a legal requirement but a responsibility that you, as a home seller, hold to avoid potential legal action. In the blog below, we’ve outlined your responsibilities during this process, emphasizing the importance of transparency in maintaining honesty and avoiding legal issues.

Structural Issues

One of the most crucial disclosure obligations is any structural issues that could impact the property’s physical integrity. It’s essential to disclose these to potential buyers at the earliest stage of the process. Structural issues can be expensive for buyers to rectify – for example:

  • Subsidence
  • Cracked walls
  • Flooded basements
  • Woodworm infestation
  • Other stability or foundational concerns

Concealing these things while moving house could be argued as being fraudulent. 

It’s also important to list any surveys or engineer’s reports that detail these structural issues. This demonstrates that the problems are not speculative and have been identified by professionals. 

Structural Changes

Additionally, it’s essential to disclose any significant renovations or changes made to the property’s fundamental structure. 

For example, you may include information on extensions, loft conversions, removed walls, and converted basements. You should also pass along any permits for these significant works to the buyer. Any planning or building regulation issues that arose during construction should also come to light. The goal is not just to disclose but to provide a comprehensive picture of the property’s structural condition from the outset. By following these steps, you can feel confident and prepared for your disclosure obligations. 

Environmental Issues

Home sellers are responsible for informing buyers about any environmental issues that could affect the property or their enjoyment of it. This includes:

  • Ground and water contamination
  • Flood risks
  • Radon gas
  • Excessive noise 
  • Air pollution
  • Proximity to high-voltage electrical supply lines and other sources of electromagnetic fields

Some buyers may be concerned about these issues, so transparency is essential. 

If the property is located in an area at risk for flooding, check official flood maps and tell buyers how frequently flooding occurs, whether flood defences are in place, and if the property has experienced damage from flooding in the past. Provide any surveys assessing environmental issues so buyers can understand the full scope of risks and make an informed decision. 

Disputes

Sellers are obliged to disclose any ongoing or pending disputes related to the property. Openly sharing dispute details allows buyers to make informed decisions and negotiate appropriately. 

Common disputes that sellers will need to reveal include:

1. Boundary disputes

You must be prepared to disclose any confusion or disagreement over the property’s boundaries. Neighbours may claim that you or a previous owner has erected a hedge or fence in the wrong location, for example. Allowing buyers to survey the boundary is advisable. 

2. Access rights disputes 

When neighbours or others dispute access rights to the property, such as a shared driveway, sellers must inform buyers. The buyer can then further investigate the extent of the access rights. 

3. Covenant breaches 

If neighbours or the local authority claim a restrictive covenant has been violated through an extension or renovation, buyers should know about the dispute and alleged breach before purchasing. 

4. Noise complaints: 

If neighbours have complained about noise from the property, such as from a hot tub, loud music or loud pets, disclose any ongoing disputes. 

5. Encroachment issues 

If any part of the property encroaches on a neighbour’s land, possibly violating their property rights, disclose the dispute. 

There may also be outstanding disputes from before you moved into the house, so you should check whether this is the case.

Third-Party Rights

In addition to disputes, sellers must disclose any third-party rights attached to the property. These rights legally grant others certain entitlements over the property, even after a sale. It’s essential to disclose these rights to potential buyers, as they must be aware of any possible limitations on their use of the property. This includes easements, flying freeholds, mineral rights, wall ownership rights, user covenants, and light or drainage rights. 

Examples of third-party rights to reveal include:

1. Easements

A neighbour may have rights of way over a driveway or footpath crossing the property. Utility companies often have easements to access lines and pipes on the land. 

2. Flying freeholds

Where part of the property overhangs or extends into a neighbour’s airspace, the neighbour has certain rights. As a seller, you should always disclose these flying freehold areas to potential buyers. 

3. Mineral rights

Previous owners may have retained rights to access mines or resources below the property’s surface. Ensure prospective buyers know whether this is the case with your property.

4. Wall ownership rights 

With terraced houses especially, adjoining owners may have partial ownership rights to walls, requiring disclosure. 

5. User covenants

A previous owner may have the right to continue using a garage, garden area, or other on-site facilities if they require continued access. 

6. Light or drainage rights

Neighbours may have legal rights to receive natural light through the property’s windows or drainage across the land. 

It’s crucial to disclose these rights to potential buyers, as they must be aware of any possible limitations on their use of the property. 

Informal Arrangements & Shared Spaces

Along with disputable claims, sellers should also disclose any informal or handshake agreements that may affect the property. For example, many people have loose arrangements with neighbours about shared driveways, fences, drains, pipes crossing property lines, and other interdependent spaces. These informal arrangements often go unmentioned but should be disclosed so buyers know. 

You should highlight any shared communal spaces or jointly owned areas as well. This may include things like shared gardens, garages, or private roads. Buyers should understand strictly what parts of the property are owned independently vs. jointly so everything is clear. 

Pest Infestation

Pest infestation is another common problem in properties that sellers must disclose. This includes rodents, woodworms, and bed bugs. 

Make buyers aware of any current or past issues with pests and any inspections, treatments, and repairs done. Evidence of mice, rats, beetles, and other pests can significantly decrease a home’s value, so hiding an infestation could be seen as deceitful. 

Even if there are no signs of pests, disclose any suspicions or risks. For example, alert buyers if the property has vacant outbuildings where rodents could nest or if the area is known to have termite problems. 

You must also point out any cracks, holes or conducive conditions for pests. Being transparent allows the buyer to evaluate and address pest risks before escalating. Trying to cover it up often backfires. 

Insurance Issues

 A property’s insurability can also factor into a buyer’s decision. Make buyers aware of any previous challenges in getting home, flooding, or other property insurance policies. 

Suppose insurers have denied coverage or only offered insurance at higher premiums in the past. In that case, this is important for buyers to know. 

Provide details on the current insurance policies in place, including the types of coverage and any noteworthy exclusions. Disclose any recent claims made, as these can impact future insurability and premiums. 

Let the buyer know about risk mitigations, such as installing flood barriers or storm shutters. A difficult or expensive property to insure loses value and may lead to buyers backing out. So, being upfront about insurability is in the seller’s interest. 

Other Factors

Beyond these main disclosure categories, sellers should also highlight any other notable issues that might influence the buyer’s decision. This includes things such as: 

  • Pet smells
  • Mould risks in damp areas
  • Noisy roads or neighbours
  • Any stigmas – for example, a previous crime committed on the premises

While some of these might be awkward to disclose, transparency is vital. It shows that the seller has nothing to hide. 

Providing official inspection reports also lends credibility rather than keeping defects secret. As a seller, the more forthcoming you are, the less likely undisclosed issues will resurface as the sale draws near and potentially jeopardise it. Plus, your reputation for honesty will stay intact.

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