Q. I purchased a property about three months ago and since moving in I have been plagued with a number of problems.
I have sought professional advice from a builder who has stated that the previous owner must have been aware of a number of the issues. In one instance, it is apparent that the seller has deliberately concealed an area of dampness in the living room. Do I have any legal authority to challenge the seller on this matter?
A. The legal principle ‘caveat emptor’, or buyer beware, places onus on the buyer to uncover any problems with a property during the purchase. Under this principle, the buyer is required to question the seller about the property to uncover any potential issues.
The issue was previously covered by the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991, which prevented sellers and their agents from making any incorrect or misleading statements about the state of a property. However under the Act the seller was not obliged to disclose any information that was not addressed by the buyer.
It was therefore very much the case that the buyer had to ask the right type of questions to uncover any issues that the seller may be concealing.
However, new Consumer Protection rules under the Unfair Trading Regulations require traders to disclose any information that could affect a buyer’s decision.
Yet a recent survey has found that almost half of people who bought new homes since the beginning of the year discovered unexpected damage after moving in. And roughly a third of those buyers believe that the seller deliberately concealed the problems during the sale.
Despite the change of law, buyers are still required to uncover any defects with the property they are purchasing by way of inspection, appointing a surveyor or specialist reports.
Depending on the type of survey that was carried out before the property was purchased, a claim may be made against the surveyor if the defects should have been spotted. In addition, if there are clear actions by the seller to conceal defects from the buyer, you may be able to make a claim against the seller.
To be protected against property defects, buyers need to be fully aware of the laws affecting a seller’s right to disclose information. In this case I would advise that legal advice is sought in a bid to reclaim expense.
For further information on any aspect of property law and conveyancing, contact Graham Ireland at email@example.com or call 01254 272640