When you sell your property, after agreeing a price with the buyer, both parties exchange details of their conveyancing solicitors. Before the sale can be completed there are various processes which need to be gone through. For example, certain types of information needs to be provided. This is to satisfy the law and in order to arrive at the final contract and completion.
One of the necessary steps concerns ‘pre-contract’ or ‘preliminary’ enquiries. You can expect to receive a fairly standard form, which will ask you to include various details of a legal nature concerning the property.
Any disputes concerning the property, for example with neighbours, (about boundaries, trees, extensions and the like) need to appear here.
You will need to state where exactly these are, and who has responsibility for maintaining the fences, hedges etc marking them. Ambiguities here can lead to arguments that end up in court.
Constraints and permissions need to be listed. If you have made any alterations you will be expected to show that they have been approved. If consents for future plans have been awarded, they should be detailed here.
Rights of way
Is there a public footpath or right of way on the property? What about shared access, for example if you and your neighbour share a drive?
Sometimes the deeds of the property will specify things that are forbidden, such as converting it into flats, or painting the exterior a different colour.
Guarantees or insurance policies
For example if you have installed a damp proof course, or had the house underpinned, and the work is guaranteed, you should give details. The buyer's Chartered Surveyor will spot if a property has been underpinned, so it is best to be honest at the start.
List of contents
Buyers and sellers need to agree what exactly the sale price includes, and make a comprehensive list. This is likely to cover things like curtains, appliances and light fittings - even the contents of the garden, as sometimes sellers will want to uproot and take favourite plants.
Sometimes additional questions will be asked about whether the property has been burgled, or whether the seller is aware of any proposed building works nearby.
Replying to enquiries
Although the vendor might see this form as a quick exercise in box ticking, it is important to take some trouble over it. When you sell a property you need to make sure that the answers are full and honest. If something comes to light after the sale has gone through, you may find that the new home owner will seek redress from you.
If the buyer has been induced into entering into a contract by misrepresentation, he or she may be entitled to damages or to rescind the contract. Therefore the seller should not assume that by the time the buyer finds out about the subsidence, or the row with the neighbours, it will be too late. Indeed, it will likely turn out much costlier in terms of time and money, than if the issue had been aired from the start.
Make sure that you and your solicitor work together so that you comply with the law, and cover yourself against any future claims. As a buyer, pre-contract questions can be tailored to suit any particular concern you might have. Your solicitor will also be able to advise you about any risks against which you might wish to take out insurance.