Published: 12th September 2018
Selling a property is rather more complicated than selling your old stuff online. Generally speaking, when a private seller lists their used possessions for sale, the rule of thumb is “caveat emptor”, let the buyer beware. This used to be the case in the property market and to a certain extent it still is, but these days sellers do have a legal responsibility to declare pertinent information to potential buyers.
What is considered pertinent is a bit of a grey area as it depends on circumstances; however, here is a list of five issues you are likely to have to declare when selling a property.
This can range from hazards such as asbestos, to environmental issues such as the presence of Japanese knotweed, flooding or subsidence to issues with utilities, for example lack of connection to mains gas or water, or electrical wiring in need of repair. Essentially, if it can be reasonably foreseen that the new owner will have to spend money to resolve the issue (or to insure against it if there is no obvious way of preventing it), then it should almost certainly be declared.
In addition to providing the title deeds, the seller will be expected to provide evidence that planning permission has been obtained for any subsequent work requiring it. The seller will also have to confirm whether or not there are any guarantees or warranties still in force on the building and whether there are any other legal issues which could impact on the buyer’s ability to enjoy their property, such as a right of way not mentioned on the title deeds.
The seller would also be expected to disclose any proposed changes to the local area, which could impact the buyer’s ability to enjoy their property. This is one of the most obvious examples of a legal grey area. First of all, sellers, even if they have been long-term residents of their neighbourhood, may genuinely not know about all local developments. Secondly, the question of what may or may not impact on a buyer’s enjoyment of a property may be a matter of opinion.
The safest approach would be to declare anything you know and let the buyer decide for themselves, as a minimum, declare anything which could reasonably be held to be incongruent to the local area. For example, if you are selling a city centre flat in an area renowned for its nightlife, then knowing that planning permission has been granted to convert an empty retail unit into another bar or take-away, may not be considered anything unusual, if, however, you knew it was due to be converted into a high-security prison, then it would definitely need to be declared.
In this context “neighbours” should be taken to mean “people in the neighbourhood” rather than just your immediate neighbours. In addition to obvious issues, such as boundary disputes and the commission of crimes against you, you may need to think about anything which might not bother you, but might bother a buyer. For example, if your neighbour runs a business from home and has a regular stream of visitors with cars, taking up local parking, then there is a strong case for arguing a buyer might reasonably want to take this into consideration when deciding whether or not to proceed with the purchase. Likewise, noisy pets might not bother you, but could bother someone else.
This is another area where the law can be somewhat grey. You would definitely be expected to declare any burglaries you knew of in the area and also if a murder had been committed in your property or if a person had committed suicide there. After this, however, a level of judgement comes into play and, as always, the basic rule of thumb is, if in doubt, declare it. For example, you may not think that instances of shoplifting at a local store should be an issue which would impact a person’s enjoyment of their home, but they may disagree and if they decide to take it further, you may find yourself looking at a lot of hassle and expense even if you win your case.
While it’s perfectly common for homeowners to have mortgages, indeed that’s how most people manage to become home owners in the first place, this is still a debt associated with the property and hence needs to be declared. You would also need to make the buyer aware of any other relevant debts such as second mortgages and secured loans.
If you found this article useful and you are considering selling your Manchester property then please contact our local area experts at Portfolio8 who are more than happy to answer any questions you may have. Alternatively, why not use our free online valuation tool to see how much your property is worth!