Generally speaking, sales between one private individual and another work on the basis of ‘caveat emptor’ let the buyer beware. This means that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods/services before a purchase is made. Property sales, however, are an exception to this rule of thumb and it is important to be aware of your legal responsibilities as a seller to avoid any possibility of being sued later.
Disclosure needs to be made via the Property Information Form (TA6)
It’s not remotely enough just to mention something verbally to a prospective buyer. Disclosure needs to be made via the legally-recognised means, which is currently the Property Information Form (TA6). Read the accompanying explanatory notes as well.
Ignorance is not necessarily an excuse
When it comes to property disclosure law, the relevant test is not necessarily whether or not a claimant can prove that you knew something, but whether or not it would be reasonable to assume that you either knew it or should have known it.
You need to disclose both practical and emotional issues (or potential issues)
In basic terms, you need to disclose anything which could cause a reasonable buyer to reconsider their decision to buy your property, or at least to do so at the agreed price. While it may seem obvious that you need to disclose any practical issues with your property and it may also be fairly evident that you need to disclose any forthcoming changes to your neighbourhood which might have an impact on the property, but it may be less obvious that you also need to disclose anything which might cause your house to be considered “stigmatised property”. This is a U.S. term but the basic concept also applies in the UK. Basically, it means that sellers must disclose anything which might have an emotional impact on the average buyer.
Some practical examples of points to disclose
- Structural defects in the property.
- Anything related to planning permission (approvals granted, pending requests or previous denials).
- Anything related to pest control, including any pest-control measures taken in the past. In this context, pest-control means not only vermin, but also Japanese Knotweed.
- Problem neighbours, if you know that your neighbour has an Anti Social Behaviour Order (ASBO), then you absolutely must disclose this. Other issues are more a matter of common sense, although the guiding principle is that if you are in any doubt as to whether or not something should be disclosed, then you probably should disclose it and disclose it accurately.
- High crime rates.
- Flight paths in your vicinity.
- Proposed environmental changes which could impact on the enjoyment of the property.
You must make the buyer aware of any violent deaths which took place in your property and also of any suicides.