Disclosure – what you need to disclose when selling a home
So, Manors have found you your buyer, you’ve accepted an offer, the champagne has been drunk and now it’s time to do the paperwork. If you haven’t sold a property for a few years, you might be surprised by how much there is. There’s the Sellers Property Information Form, the Fixtures Fittings and Contents Form and, for leasehold properties, there’s the Leasehold Information Form.
At first glance, they appear to be simple tick-box forms but don’t treat them too lightly, as they form part of the sales contract. They are intended to reduce the buyers’ risk by informing them of any issues that may be of concern and, in particular, anything that might affect the value of the property.
People are often worried about exposing negative aspects of their homes and many are tempted to avoid telling a purchaser about anything they may consider off-putting. And, the bigger the problem, the stronger the urge to hide it. It’s no good saying ‘not as far as the seller is aware’ as you are not only responsible for the serious defects you know about, you are also responsible for the ones you should have known about. The best thing to do is be honest with all your answers, or you run the risk of future legal action, sometimes long after your completion date. It’s the more serious omissions that are most likely to come back and bite you. On the other hand, if an issue you’re disclosing has already been resolved, there should be nothing to worry about.
One of the sections of the Property Information Form where it is particularly tempting to be a little loose with the facts is “Disputes and Complaints”. This is where you are asked about any disputes or complaints with your neighbours, or even anything that could lead to future ones. Problem neighbours can have a measurable effect on the value of a property and so any omissions can provide ammunition for legal action. There is some confusion over how far back in time you should go, but if you are in any doubt, ask your solicitor.
Another common area where less than accurate answers are common is “Notices and Proposals”. This is where a seller is asked to disclose copies of letters and communications from neighbours, local authorities, government departments (or anyone else) that may have an effect on the property’s value, such as planning applications. These tend to have extensive electronic and paper trails, so it is very unlikely you will get away with failing to disclose them.
And, if your area is liable to flooding, don’t try and hide it.
Although it all may sound a bit serious, don’t get yourself into a panic - legal action is, luckily, fairly rare, especially over any petty issues. However, you should be aware, if you do end up in court, it can be very costly, so it is best to avoid it.
Fixtures Fittings and Contents is a far more straightforward form which details what is going to be left at the property and what is going to be removed. A great tip is to keep a photocopy of it once you’ve filled it in, because the average conveyancing transaction takes a month or more and over such a long time period, your memory of it can easily fade. The form specifies that if you remove any items, you must ensure any damage is minimised. And, if you take any light fittings with you, they have to be replaced with a flex, bulb holder and bulb and be in a safe operable condition.
Lastly, the Leasehold Property Information Form is specifically designed to reveal problems that may have arisen with a landlord or management company. Issues with landlords and management companies are not uncommon but, once more, just be honest. It’s often not nearly as bad as you might think and will help you avoid any claims for misrepresentation further down the line.
The information we provide is our personal opinion and should not be relied upon for legal advice. Should you need legal advice or guidance please contact an appropriate professional.