Last week, I shared some tips on how to prepare for a house sale in a challenging property market. This week, I will be focusing on the key disclosure responsibilities of those selling property. This advice will hopefully ensure that vendors do not fall foul of the law, which can happen all too often, usually due to lack of knowledge 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 persons problem neighbour can be anothers friendly and fun new best friend!
If youre asked by a prospective buyer about any problems you may have encountered with your neighbours, its advisable to stick to is sues that might have a marked effect on the relationship between the buyer and your neighbours if they were to buy the property.
However, things like music being played loudly at night, or if your neighbours have noisy kids, dont need to be mentioned as these kinds of is sues are often subjective. Be careful, however, because if youre asked to confirm any of these things in writing, you need to be very sure that the information you provide is factual. You may be sued for disclosing false information later, especially if it relates to shared land or house maintenance.
In general, as long as any dispute does not affect anything material about the house or property on which it stands, and youre not being asked to disclose information in writing, dont feel obliged to disclose everything, as its not a legal necessity.
Disclaimer: Please note that the firm is not to be held responsible if anyone acts on the basis of the advice contained in this article.