By Martin Williamson, Head of Residential Property, Latimer Hinks Solicitors www.latimerhinks.co.uk
There are many ‘disclosure responsibilities’ that are in place to ensure that vendors do not fall foul of the law and buyers do not lose out. Problems can arise when those selling properties are not up to speed with some of those very responsibilities.
The common law principle of ‘caveat emptor’, or buyer beware, means that a seller of land is under no duty to disclose material facts to a prospective buyer. There is an exception to this principle: the seller must disclose latent defects that a buyer could not ‘reasonably’ discover for himself by inspecting the property.
The caveat emptor principle can, however, put the buyer at a considerable disadvantage. His/her knowledge of the property will be less than that of the seller. It is therefore standard as part of the conveyancing process for the buyer to raise preliminary enquiries with the seller in order to discover information that materially affects the property up for sale. The vendor may be liable for misrepresentation if he provides any factually inaccurate replies to these enquiries.
One of the main disclosure points, and the most common cause of contention, is the need to be 100% honest about problem neighbours. However, this can be something of a grey area, as it is, in the main, subjective; one person’s problem neighbour can be no issue to another neighbour.
If sellers are asked by prospective buyers about any problems they may have encountered with neighbours, it is advisable for them to stick to issues that might have a marked effect on the relationship between the buyer and their neighbours if they were to go on to buy the property. Obvious examples might include disputes over land or shared house maintenance, a dispute over boundary lines or the height of a hedge.
Please note: This article is intended as guidance only. No responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by Latimer Hinks. In addition, no responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by the firm.