Property misrepresentation claims - against seller

Buying a new home is one of the most stressful things you will do in life and is probably the most expensive purchase that you will ever make. It therefore goes without saying that when buying a property, you will want to make sure that there is nothing wrong with it, before you buy.

The legal position is the well known phrase, caveat emptor or ‘buyer beware’, which essentially means that it is your responsibility as a purchaser, to make all of the necessary checks and enquiries on a property, before you buy it. You will therefore be advised, usually by your solicitors, to ensure that you get a survey of the property before you purchase.

Sometimes however, a surveyor may not be able to pick up everything that may be wrong with a property, maybe because they have been unable to access a particular area or because the issue has been hidden or covered up, by the seller.

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Duty of the seller

Unfortunately, there is no duty on the seller of a property to disclose any issues or defects with the property, voluntarily. A seller does however have a duty to answer all enquiries in relation to the property honestly and accurately. Standard enquiries are usually made by the seller being asked to complete the sellers property information form, which is a standard form produced by the Law Society. This asks a number of questions relating to the property and any issues relating to it and the surrounding area, that are within the knowledge of the seller. Your solicitor may also ask further specific enquiries throughout the course of the conveyancing process, which again, the seller has a duty to answer accurately and honestly.

Seller lied on property information form

So, what happens if a seller lies on the property information form or in response to specific enquiries?

This can result in a claim for misrepresentation against the seller. The sellers property information form and replies to enquiries, form part of the contract between you and the seller. It is therefore a breach of that contract if they knowingly misrepresent any of the answers on the form and you then rely on those representations in purchasing the property.

Our property dispute solicitors have acted for numerous clients who have found themselves in this situation. Examples of the types of misrepresentations that we have seen are as follows:

  • Structural issues that require extensive remedial works
  • Damp
  • Disputes with the neighbours to the property
  • Proposed planning in the area that could effect the value of the property
  • The presence of Japanese Knotweed in the garden

The above list is by no means exhaustive and there can be a range of other issues that arise.

Bringing a claim for seller misrepresentation

If you wish to bring a claim against a seller for misrepresentation, you firstly have to show that they have answered an enquiry inaccurately or incorrectly and then you have to be able to prove that the seller was aware of the issue before you bought the property. The latter can sometimes be more difficult to prove and usually speaking with neighbours who may be willing to give a statement to support your case, can be very helpful evidence. 

If you can prove your case, you may then have a claim against the seller to rescind the contract, which means to cancel the contract, return the property to them and you get back all that you have spent. If the issue is considered to be minor or capable of rectification however, the court may find that it is more proportionate for your claim to be one for damages to reflect either the cost of any remedial works or the diminution in the value of the property.

It is also important to consider in situations like this, if you instructed a surveyor to assess the property before you purchased it, whether the surveyor ought to have noticed the issues with the property, in particular if they relate to the condition of the property. You may therefore have a potential professional negligence claim against the surveyor also. 

If you think you may have a claim for property misrepresentation and wish to discuss it with us, call our specialist team on 0203 816 9314 or complete our online enquiry form. We offer a variety of fixed fee services for the initial stages of cases like this, including fixed price advice with 30 minute appointments available for £150 with our specialist advisers.

 

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