In the past, estate agents and sellers have worked around the idea of ‘caveat emptor’, also known as ‘buyer beware’. This meant that the responsibility for discovering issues with the property was down to the buyer – if they didn’t ask, you didn’t have to tell. If something turned up after they bought the property, well, they should have asked, shouldn’t they?
However, since 2013, the description and sale of property has come under the CPR (Consumer Protection Against Unfair Trading Regulations). This means that if you don’t disclose something that could legitimately affect your buyer’s decision, you could be prosecuted.
So how do you fully disclose information?
To start, your estate agent will request a Property Information Form (TA6) which you will fill out. Any disputes with neighbours, planning permission nearby or building work done on the property should be listed here.
Your estate agent also needs to act responsibly, so make sure they know any concerns you have about the property so they can be passed on. You also need to tell your conveyancing solicitor, so they can be aware.
Things that can be concerning, like pests, Japanese knotweed
or a previous sale falling through due to the results of a survey, need to be disclosed. People have the right to know what they’re walking into.
There are some cases where you’re not sure if the information is relevant, but it’s always best to be honest. This doesn’t mean you have to make your home sound awful, but it’s best to be upfront. If you don’t particularly get along with your neighbours, that’s fine, but if they have noisy parties every weekend or the police have been called to break up fights, you have a responsibility to disclose this.
If you’re not sure what’s relevant, ask your conveyancing solicitor and estate agent.
Some examples of what needs to be disclosed:
- If the property is on a flight path or in view of a motorway, or there are plans for this to occur
- If a violent death took place in the property
- If there are high levels of crime in the area
- If there are pests or Japanese knotweed problems either currently or in the past
- If your neighbours have an Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO)
- Any structural issues with the property
- Any planning permission, whether it was granted, is pending, or was denied
- Guarantees or insurance policies like underpinning, or damp proofing
- Planning limmitations
- Boundary issues or shared rights of way
Remember that the facts you disclose may not always put the buyer off. Consider how property adverts are written, with the focus on the positive. A cramped living room becomes ‘petite’ or ‘modest’. An older property in need of renovation becomes ‘rustic’ or ‘offers opportunity for modernisation.’
Similarly, whilst you may be tired of the noise from the pub down the road, a young first time buyer couple may see the benefit of having a friendly pub on their doorstep. Just because you don’t particularly like your neighbours, it doesn’t mean your new buyers won’t. Whatever the issues with your property, there is likely to be someone who will still be happy to buy it, but to ensure that you are on the right side of the law, they need to go in with their eyes wide open.
If in doubt, discuss the issues with your conveyancing solicitor
, and they’ll be able to advise you as to whether it’s relevant. Failing to disclose relevant information is a criminal offence, so always err on the side of caution. Being upfront and clear in advance will mean your property is sold more promptly and there are no issues afterwards.
How will this affect my sale?
In many cases this information won’t affect your sale at all. It is freely available to those considering buying, and if they move forward, that decision is down to them. If there are certain issues with your home that may make it difficult to sell, you may need to insure you have the appropriate paperwork. For example, if your property previously had Japanese knotweed, you should produce the paperwork for when it was treated and the outcome.
Having all of the necessary paperwork can help in situations where elements have been replaced or repaired, or applications for planning permission and why they were denied. Giving a full picture and context can often help a buyer see your side and feel confident in moving ahead with the purchase.
In some cases, where significant structural issues, or particularly awful neighbours are concerned, it may affect the time your property is on the market, or the sale price. But compare this to the months going through court and the fees and fines you may pay if you don’t disclose these details - it's definitely the smarter choice.
Other things to consider
You will fill out a fixtures and fittings form before moving. This will tell your buyer what is included in the purchase. Suddenly deciding before you move to pull up the carpets or take the white goods when they were previously included is misleading. Be clear about what you're taking and what you're leaving to avoid any difficulty closer to exchange.
What don’t I need to disclose?
In America, according to Forbes
, there is an expectation to disclose if you believe your property to be haunted or if you’ve conducted an exorcism. Luckily, in the UK, we don’t consider this to be necessary information, so if you are eager to move on and leave Casper behind, you’re in luck!
Article updated February 2020