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 another’s friendly and fun new best friend!
If you’re asked by a prospective buyer about any problems you may have encountered with your neighbours, it’s advisable to stick to issues that might have a marked effect on the relationship between the buyer and your neighbours if they were 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.
However, things like music being played loudly at night, or if your neighbours have noisy kids, don’t need to be mentioned as these kinds of issues are often subjective. Be careful, however, because if you’re 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 you’re not being asked to disclose information in writing, don’t feel obliged to disclose everything, as it’s not a legal necessity.
On a final note, if there are any material matters about which you are unsure whether to disclose or not, please seek advice from your solicitor, in order to prevent any problems arising after you have moved.
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.
Martin Williamson is Head of Residential Property at Latimer Hinks Solicitors in Darlington. Latimer Hinks has a team of around 50 people serving private and corporate clients.
For further information:
CONTACT: Marie Carter on 01325 363 436.