When you buy a property in the UK, you do so under the general principle of “caveat emptor” also known as “buyer beware”. This means that it is your responsibility as the buyer to check the condition of the property you are buying.
In other words, the seller is under no legal obligation to tell you about any issues with the property, such as structural defects or plans for a new development nearby that might affect you as the new owner.
This is why it is so important to make sure all the right checks are done on any property you are considering buying, including a building survey and all the appropriate conveyancing checks and searches. These processes are designed to uncover any potential problems, allowing you to reconsider the purchase if necessary or renegotiate the price where possible.
However, there are certain circumstances where you may have legal options to seek redress, so it is important to check whether any of these may apply to your situation.
If the seller has broken the terms of the contracts of sale
Once exchange of contracts has taken place, both parties are bound by the terms of those contracts. This means that if the seller agreed to leave fixtures and fittings such as carpets in place, but when you move in you find that these have been removed, you may be able to make a claim against them.
Similarly, if any damage has happened to the property since exchange of contracts e.g. a window has been broken or a pipe has burst, the seller is required to inform the buyer. While the buyer is responsible for insuring the property from the time contracts are exchanged, if the seller fails to inform them of an issue that then results in serious damage that could have been avoided with prompt action, the buyer may have grounds for claim.
If the seller has deliberately misled you
While the seller is not required to tell the buyer about any problems, they are also not allowed to intentionally lie about the state of the property. If you believe the seller deliberately misled you, you may have grounds for legal action, but it is important to bear in mind that you would need to be able to prove the seller lied, which can be very difficult to establish.
Where a seller tells you something during the buying process that you are relying upon it is important to tell your conveyancer to ensure that they can confirm this in writing with the seller’s solicitor.
If your surveyor has been negligent
When buying a property, you will be highly reliant on the skills, expertise and judgement of the professionals you use, such as surveyors. If you believe they have failed to identify an issue that has ended up costing you money, you may have grounds for a professional negligence claim.
To make a successful claim for professional negligence, you will need to be able to show that the service provided fell significantly below an acceptable standard. The general principle is to show that any competent surveyor under the same circumstances would have identified the issue in question.
If the property is a new build under warranty
When you buy a new build home, it will often come with a warranty, typically for 10 years. This means that if you do find any problems after you move in, such as a leaking roof, you should be able to have them put right.
A typical warranty on a new build home will cover most issues for the first 2 years, excluding standard wear and tear. After the first 2 years, only more serious issues, such as structural flaws will normally be covered.
This will not always be the case as some property have lesser guarantees for the building work.
Avoid property headaches by using a reliable conveyancing team
Bird & Co Solicitors is a Conveyancing Quality Scheme accredited law firm offering conveyancing services across England and Wales from our 3 offices in the East Midlands. We offer a reliable, efficient and cost-effective conveyancing service, making the process as smooth and stress-free as possible and helping to protect you against the risk of future problems with your new home.
With decades of experience across our residential property team, we know exactly what to look for so we can help minimise the chances of any unexpected issues turning up after the purchase of your new home is final. Where you are buying a new build home, we can also advise you of your rights under your warranty and help you to seek a solution for any problems you find.
To find out more about our conveyancing services for all types of residential property, please call us today on 01476 372 044 or use our contact page for details of your nearest Bird & Co office.