So, you’re thinking of selling your property? Be it your home, a second place or buy-to-let investment, the decision is a big one, and there’s plenty to consider, particularly when it comes to what you legally need to disclose to potential buyers. If it all seems a little daunting, worry not. This guide has everything you need to know about your obligations as a seller when selling a home.
What do you legally have to disclose when selling a house?
There’s a lot to think about before selling your home. From deciding on an agent to getting the home ready for viewings. Then there are the legal aspects, which might sound a bit scary but needn’t worry you. Generally speaking, everything you have to disclose legally before selling your home is fairly straightforward, and a solicitor can help.
Don’t overlook it, though. To steer clear of legal troubles, there’s specific information you’re obliged to provide. While it’s natural to want to showcase your home in the best possible light to attract buyers, other responsibilities still require your attention. Some of what you need to disclose includes defects, boundaries, disputes, alterations, environmental aspects and more.
The temptation to only share positive details about your home to sway someone into purchasing is understandable. However, concealing negative aspects that might deter some buyers can prove problematic.
It might seem counterintuitive to adopt a ‘full disclosure’ stance when selling a home, but honestly, it’s the most effective strategy. You’re obliged to divulge all the positive and less appealing aspects of your home so the buyer gets comprehensive information to help them make an informed decision before purchasing.
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What is ‘caveat emptor’?
‘Caveat emptor’ is Latin for ‘let the buyer beware’, a phrase that may or may not be familiar to you. This principle governed the property market for a long time, placing the onus on the buyer to do their due diligence before purchasing. Essentially, the property was bought ‘as seen’, with all the risk falling on the buyer’s shoulders.
Times have changed, however. The UK has significantly shifted away from this ‘caveat emptor’ principle. Nowadays, the onus isn’t solely on the buyer, and sellers have a key role to play too. They’re now legally bound to disclose specific details about their property, ensuring a fair and transparent transaction in the process.
These disclosures aim to protect buyers from unforeseen issues and costly surprises after the purchase, making the market a safer place for them. In this sense, the modern property market leans towards a more balanced approach, protecting both the buyer’s and seller’s interests.
What is the Seller’s Information Form (TA6)?
At the heart of the disclosure process is the TA6 form, also known as the Seller’s Information Form. It’s a comprehensive questionnaire about the property that sellers must fill out when selling their property.
Let’s break down its key sections.
- You’ll need to specify who’s responsible for maintaining the property boundaries.
- Disputes and complaints. If there’s been a dispute with a neighbour, it’s time to come clean and be transparent about the issue.
- Notices and proposals. Any notices that affect the property, like planning permissions or compulsory purchase orders, should be disclosed.
- Alterations, planning and building control. You must declare any alterations to the property and if the appropriate permissions were obtained.
- Guarantees and warranties. If there are any warranties or guarantees on the property, such as for damp proofing or new windows, these should be included.
- If the property’s ever been underinsured or if insurance was refused, this needs to be reported on the TA6 form.
- Environmental matters. This includes information on flooding and radon gas.
- Rights and informal arrangements. If there are any rights over the property, like a right of way, or any informal arrangements, like letting a neighbour use your parking space, they must be declared.
- Details about parking, including permits and allocations, should be disclosed.
- Other charges. If there are charges associated with the property, such as service charges for flats, they must be included.
While it’s not a strict legal requirement, it’s commonly expected for you to complete a Seller’s Information Form when selling a property. Most solicitors will advise that you fill in this form. Failing to do so could potentially lead to legal complications. This could happen if you omit to reveal a significant problem that the buyer only uncovers after moving in.
Disclosing defects and issues
Honesty really is the best policy when dealing with property defects. Be it a significant structural issue like subsidence, damp patches blooming on the walls, unwelcome critters taking up residence or irregularities with utilities such as faulty wiring or plumbing issues – these aren’t things to hide or gloss over.
It might seem tempting to stay silent, hoping that a quick sale can be made before these problems come to light. But in truth, if you’re aware of these defects, it’s far better to disclose them upfront. Not only does this foster trust with potential buyers, but it also safeguards you from litigation further down the line. After all, finding out about undisclosed problems post-sale can lead to disputes , legal headaches and even financial repercussions.
Disclosing relevant legal information
Beyond the physical aspects of the property, there’s a whole world of legal matters you’re required to disclose when selling. This can include any disputes or discrepancies over the title deeds or ownership of the property. Maybe there’s been a historical quarrel over boundaries with a neighbour, or perhaps there’s confusion about who truly owns a piece of land. These are things a buyer has a right to know.
There’s also planning permission and building regulation to consider. If you’ve extended your property, converted the loft or made other significant changes, you should have sought the appropriate permissions and adhered to building regulations. Failing to do so could lead to problems for the new owner, so it’s only fair that they’re made aware of this before they part with their money.
Finally, there are easements and restrictive covenants to consider. An easement might grant someone else a right over the property, like a footpath through the garden, while a restrictive covenant could prevent certain activities, such as running a business from home. These can significantly affect how a new owner uses the property, so they should definitely be disclosed.
The role of conveyancing solicitors
Understanding and navigating the multitude of legal requirements associated with selling a property can be a daunting task. This is where the expertise of conveyancing becomes so helpful. These legal professionals specialise in the ins and outs of property law.
They will guide you seamlessly through this intricate process, ensuring all disclosures are accurate, thorough and in line with legal mandates. Given the potential repercussions of non-compliance, getting professional help is often necessary. It not only ensures you’re fully compliant with obligations but also adds a layer of security to the entire selling process.
Consequences of non-disclosure
Failing to disclose the required information can lead to serious consequences. Buyers could sue for misrepresentation, and you could be on the hook for significant financial losses. So, it really isn’t worth skirting around these obligations.
Navigating the disclosure process can be tricky, so let’s address some frequently asked questions.
Can I sell a house “as is”?
You can indeed sell a house “as is”, but that doesn’t absolve you from the duty of disclosure. It’s important to be honest about the state of the property, even if you’re planning on selling it without making any improvements.
What if I don’t know the answer to a question on the TA6 form?
If you’re unsure about an answer, it’s best to say so. There’s a risk of providing false information if you take a guess, and that could land you in hot water. It’s also a good idea to seek advice from a solicitor if you’re uncertain.
What if I discover a problem after the sale has gone through?
If you discover a problem after the sale, it’s generally considered the buyer’s issue, as long as you didn’t know about it at the time of sale and couldn’t reasonably have been expected to know. However, if the problem is serious and you believe the buyer might try to argue that you should have been aware of it, it’s worth consulting with a solicitor.
Can a sale be cancelled due to non-disclosure?
In some cases, yes. If it’s proven that the seller knowingly failed to disclose information that would have influenced the buyer’s decision, the buyer may be able to rescind the contract. Again, honesty is always the best policy to avoid such predicaments.
Disclosing when selling a property
In a nutshell, when selling a property, full disclosure is key. From the state of the property to its legal issues and everything in between, honesty and transparency should be your guiding principles. After all, it’s not just about making a sale—it’s about making a fair and legal sale. With a bit of diligence, you can navigate the selling process smoothly and rest easy knowing you’ve met all your obligations.
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