Buying a house can be an exciting, exhilarating experience.
However, if you later discover problems with your new property that weren’t disclosed during the sales process, it can be difficult to know what to do.
Here, we explain everything you need to know about undisclosed property problems and the steps you can take…
Can someone sue after buying a house in the UK?
If you discover a serious problem with your property after you’ve completed and moved in, you may be able to take legal action against the seller if you believe the issue wasn’t properly disclosed or you were misled.
To take legal action, there would need to be a material difference between the description or value of the property as represented by the seller against the reality of both.
To make a claim, you would need to prove:
- The problems discovered existed when you exchanged contracts
- The issue is a genuine problem and not something open to opinion
- The problem lowers the value of the property
In most cases, buyers have six years from the date of completion to bring any claims against undisclosed problems, or three years from the date the buyer discovered the issue.
Always seek independent legal advice if you’re thinking of making a claim against a seller.
The importance of a survey for buyers
The best way to avoid discovering problems with a property after you’ve exchanged contracts or completed your purchase is to have a full survey carried out.
Surveys aren’t a legal requirement but are highly recommended.
The most common problems a surveyor will look for include:
- Structural defects, including risk of subsidence
- Possible health and safety problems, such as asbestos
- Signs of damp, dry rot, or pest infestations
- Serious electrical issues
- Faults or damage to a roof or drainage issues
- Poor insulation
Your survey report will be returned to you prior to exchanging contracts, so you’ll be able to assess any issues uncovered by the surveyor before you’re committed to the purchase.
If your survey does report serious problems, you may be able to negotiate a price reduction with your seller, or request that they fix the issue before you commit to the purchase.
A survey can also be used as evidence should you make a claim against your seller for undisclosed problems.
Property information and the seller’s responsibilities
Sellers are legally obliged provide accurate and truthful information to buyers about the condition of their property.
Also, any enquiries from buyers, through their solicitors, must be answered truthfully.
Most property purchases require sellers to complete a TA6 property information form, although this isn’t a legal requirement.
The TA6 form should include:
- Information on the property’s boundaries
- Details of any disputes with neighbours
- Notice of work or planning permission at nearby properties or roads
- Details of any major work or alterations completed at the property
- Details of the seller’s buildings insurance policy and any previous claims
- Information on car parking rights and restrictions
If the seller provides false or misleading information, or withholds key information, they may be at risk of a misrepresentation claim by the buyer.