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Buying a house? Buyer beware!

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Buying a house? – Buyer Beware!

“Caveat Emptor” is a Latin phrase which translates to “let the buyer beware”, and applies to all contractual property purchases.  

In other words, the obligation is on the buyer to find out everything they want or need to know about the property before they buy it.

Surveys

It is the buyer’s responsibility to carry out any inspections (usually with the assistance of a surveyor) to find out if there are any physical defects relating to the property and satisfy themselves of the actual condition of the property before they buy it or before they commit to buying it.

Many buyers assume that their mortgage lender’s valuation report doubles as a survey and will flag up any concerns. Unfortunately this is not the case and the lender’s report will only confirm whether the property is reasonable security for the loan. 

Any lawyer acting for the buyer will therefore advise their clients to consider obtaining a survey to be carried out by an experienced surveyor. The Royal Institute of Charted Surveyors offers three different levels of survey depending on the level of inspection the buyer requests. Such inspections and reports can include the following services and advice:

  • Inspecting concealed areas;
  • Exposing potential problems posed by hidden defects;
  • Advising on the amount of ongoing maintenance required in the future;
  • Identifying any problems that need repairing or urgent attention;
  • Providing an estimate of costs for identified repairs;
  • Describing the true construction and condition of the property.

If any defects are raised in the survey, the buyer should raise this information with the seller before contracts are exchanged. This can be invaluable in any price negotiations. It will also help the buyer avoid any nasty (and sometimes costly!) surprises after completion.

Misrepresentations by the Seller

Although the obligation is on the buyer to inspect the property pre-contract, the buyer may have a claim against the seller for any issues that become apparent after exchange or completion, if the seller made a misrepresentation about the property.

As part of the selling process, the seller is required to provide certain information about the property in prescribed forms, such as the:

  • Fittings and contents form (TA10)
  • Property information form (TA6)

The buyer is also likely to raise pre-contract enquiries with the seller, who must answer honestly.

A misrepresentation is an untrue statement of fact made by the seller to the buyer, and would constitute a breach of contract. The buyer could therefore claim for reimbursement of the financial losses they have incurred in having the defect repaired.

Due to the flamboyant property market, we have experienced an increase in enquiries from buyers who have purchased a property and noticed a number of defects.  We have successfully pursued claims and or negotiated settlements for our clients arising from breach of contract and misrepresentation.

If you need any assistance or would like to discuss the options available to you then please get in touch with Katie Jones on 01384 880698, or simply call us on 0800 118 1500 to find out how we can help you today.

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