When buying a home, it is usual to try to find out everything about it before committing to the purchase. However, there is a risk of discovering problems with a property after you move in which weren’t apparent before.
Structural defects, problems with faulty electrics or even disputes with neighbours are sometimes not flagged to you by the seller before the purchase. Once the sale completes, money will have been handed over to the seller and the property transferred to you legally. Is it too late for you to do anything about this?
Prior to your purchase going through, your solicitor will raise enquiries with the seller’s solicitor. These are questions about the property which are passed on to the seller to answer. The idea is to make sure (as best you can) that you have all the information that you might want about the property before you decide whether to complete the purchase.
Nothing but the truth
Unfortunately, sometimes sellers’ responses are not very full, and, on occasion, they don’t tell the entire truth. This can lead to things which you should have been told about, being hidden from you.
If the seller has not told the whole truth in answering the enquiries (either by giving incorrect information or omitting information), this could cause you a loss. If so, you may be able to sue the seller in misrepresentation. To bring a claim, you would need to prove that there had been a misrepresentation and that it is simply not just a coincidence.
An example would be where the seller has told you that an item at the property is in good working order and then you find out a month after completing that it is broken. It may not be simple to prove that this is the seller’s fault, or that the seller had misrepresented the position before purchase. However, it may be different if the seller had told you no major works had been carried out at the property but you then later found out that works had been carried out without building regulations or planning permission. If this causes you to suffer a loss as a result, it is much more likely that you would have a provable claim.
When buying, the principal of “buyer beware” exists. This means that it is up to the buyer to make sure that all investigations are carried out before purchasing to make sure the property is for him. If the issues could have been discovered by an inspection, the seller can argue this to defend a misrepresentation claim.
Buyers usually instruct surveyors to carry out a Home Buyer Report prior to exchanging contracts. These reports are substantial and should highlight any potential issues at the property (both inside and out) before you purchase it. This gives you the opportunity to investigate further.
Sometimes (albeit infrequently) you may purchase your property and later find that there is an issue that the surveyor should have picked up on in his report and advised you upon. If this is the case, then you may have a claim against the surveyor in professional negligence.
If you are concerned about an issue in your property that you think you should have been told about before purchase, we recommend that you speak to a specialist solicitor.
Best Wishes, Edward Smith