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Have You Bought a House With Undisclosed Problems?

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Buying a house is a significant investment for most people, and it is natural to have concerns about undisclosed issues. However, finding undisclosed problems does not necessarily mean it is a disaster:

  • If the problems are discovered before the sale is completed, the buyer can withdraw from the purchase or negotiate with the seller for a reduced price or repairs.
  • If the problems are found after the sale is completed, the buyer may be able to seek compensation if they can prove that the seller misrepresented the condition of the house.

Undisclosed problems can be a nightmare for house buyers. Here is our advice on how to handle a “disclosure dilemma.”

Table of Contents

Have You Bought a House With Undisclosed Problems?

Your Rights Before Buying

Before buying a house, it is the buyer’s responsibility to conduct due diligence. This involves hiring a chartered surveyor to thoroughly inspect the property for structural and other issues.

The survey also provides insurance, as the surveyor can be held accountable for compensation if they miss a major fault during the inspection. The burden is not solely on the buyer.

The seller must disclose any problems on their Seller Property Information Form, and either party can back out of the deal at any point until the contracts are exchanged if unresolved issues arise.

If a buyer has been diligent in their inspection, it is unlikely they would be unable to seek compensation after completion.

What To Do If Problems Are Discovered After Purchasing The Property?

Even if you conducted thorough viewings and a home survey, there is still a chance that problems may arise later. These could range from minor issues like a dripping shower head to more significant problems like structural damage or damp.

Whether or not to take action depends on the severity of the issue. If it does not significantly affect the value of the property, it may not be worth pursuing with the seller unless it is a new build.

However, if the problem is substantial, such as structural damage, damp, local planning developments that could impact property value or non-trivial neighbour disputes, a buyer may be able to make a claim against the seller.

To make a successful claim, the buyer must prove that the issue existed at the time of signing the contracts, that it is a legitimate problem, and that it has significantly affected their asset. Buyers typically have six years to bring a claim against the seller.

When buying or selling a house, the responsibility of enquiring about the property falls on the buyer. If you choose to proceed without conducting proper investigations and later discover defects, the seller is not liable.

On the other hand, if the seller provides false information on the property information form or fails to answer your questions truthfully, you may have grounds for a property misrepresentation claim. In such cases, you will need supporting evidence.

If any third party involved in the transaction is at fault for not disclosing problems, you can make a complaint for professional negligence. It is best to raise any inquiries before purchasing the house, as there is a six-year statute of limitations for fraudulent misrepresentation claims.

What Happens If You Find Problems After Buying a House?
While not mandatory, sellers usually fill out a property information form (TA6) where they disclose relevant information about the property.

What Happens If You Find Problems After Buying a House?

Discovering faults after buying a house does not automatically entitle you to sue the seller for non-disclosure. While not mandatory, sellers usually fill out a property information form (TA6) where they disclose relevant information about the property.

As the buyer, you are responsible for raising inquiries, conducting a house survey, and investigating the property’s condition. If the seller is unaware of a problem and cannot answer your inquiries, they must disclose this.

If circumstances change and the seller obtains new information, they must inform you. A thorough house survey should uncover any hidden defects. If your survey fails to uncover such defects, you will need to consider your options.

To make a property misrepresentation claim, you must prove that the defect existed before the exchange of contracts and that the buyer intentionally provided false information. However, some defects may only become apparent after you move into the property, and in such cases, you will be responsible for any necessary repairs.

Did You Know?

Properties in the UK are sold "as seen" under caveat emptor, meaning buyers are solely responsible for investigating the property's condition. However, sellers must be transparent about any known problems, and their solicitors must answer the buyer's legal inquiries. Property misrepresentation cases include structural problems, damp, inaccurate property descriptions, failure to disclose neighbour disputes, failure to disclose water damage, and failure to disclose mould.

Can Someone Sue After Buying a House?

If you have already purchased a house with undisclosed problems and have evidence to support your claim, you can take legal action against the seller under the Misrepresentation Act 1967 or file a complaint for professional negligence if third parties are at fault.

If you discover defects in your home after purchasing it, you can take legal action against the seller. However, you must be able to provide sufficient evidence that the seller was aware of the issue and deliberately tried to deceive you.

In order for your case to be valid, the defect must be significant enough to impact the value of your home or put you in a position of negative equity. For instance, if the seller falsely claims that the property has building regulations, but you later discover that this is not the case, you can pursue legal action.

It is the seller’s legal obligation to truthfully respond to any questions or concerns you or your solicitor raise throughout the conveyancing process. However, it is important for the buyer to actively enquire about the condition of the property. If you fail to do so, you will bear full responsibility for any defects discovered after the purchase.

Can I Take Legal Action Against My Conveyancer?

If you find any faults in the house you bought due to your solicitor’s negligence, you can resolve the issue by first complaining to the company. You can escalate the matter by complaining to the Legal Ombudsman or the SRA if the matter is unresolved.

Due to conflicts of interest, you cannot communicate with the seller’s solicitor during the purchase process.

Therefore, you cannot sue them directly. Your solicitor is responsible for relaying messages and raising inquiries on your behalf. If your solicitor fails in their duty of care, you can make a complaint.

Can I Claim Against My Surveyor?
Due to conflicts of interest, you cannot communicate with the seller's solicitor during the purchase process.

Can I Claim Against My Surveyor?

If your surveyor fails to notice any significant defects in the property, you have the right to file a professional negligence claim against them.

Can You Sue Your Estate Agent For Negligence?

If the estate agent has provided false information or misled you, you can first complain directly to them.

If you want to escalate the issue further, you can file a complaint with the Property Ombudsman Scheme.

Do Estate Agents Have To Disclose Issues?

Yes, estate agents are responsible for:

  1. Providing an accurate description of the property to you.
  1. Sharing any relevant and important information about the property.
How Long Do You Have To Report Problems After Buying a House?
Please note that you cannot sue the seller for minor issues like a leaky shower.

How Long Do You Have To Report Problems After Buying a House?

You have a six-year window to complain if you bought a house with undisclosed problems. You will need evidence that the problem existed before you exchanged contracts and that the defect is serious enough to affect the value of your house.

Please note that you cannot sue the seller for minor issues like a leaky shower. Alternatively, if this time limit expires, you may be able to extend it to three years from the moment you discover the defect.

Am I Responsible For Repairs After I Sell My House?

If you are upfront about any defects in your property before selling and don’t intentionally hide them from your buyer, you will not be held responsible for repairs after selling your home.

In the UK, properties are sold “as seen” (caveat emptor), meaning that the buyer is solely responsible for inspecting and inquiring about the condition of the house.

As mentioned earlier, the property TA6 Form should include all the details about the property you are selling. If the survey or searches identify any issues, your buyer can use this information to negotiate the price.

What Do You Need To Declare When Selling a House?

When selling a house, certain things need to be declared. These include any changes made to the property, such as an extension.

It is also important to declare any planning permission and building regulations obtained. Property boundaries should also be clearly defined and declared. Any disputes or complaints that have occurred regarding the property should be disclosed.

Notices and proposals related to the property should also be declared. Any guarantees and warranties associated with the property should be disclosed.

It is important to provide information about the insurance coverage for the property. Environmental matters should also be declared, including any potential issues or concerns. Other charges that may apply to the property should be disclosed.

The current occupiers of the property should be identified. Finally, providing information about the connection to utilities and other services is important.

Would You Sell Instead?

Litigation is expensive, at around £300/hour. 

No litigation solicitor can give you a cast-iron guarantee that your claim will be successful.  Even if you are successful, recovering compensation from a seller will be challenging, to say the least.

You can make a complaint with relevant authorities, but even proving negligence against a solicitor or a surveyor is difficult.  This will not cost you anything apart from your time, but you may succeed. 

On the other hand, you can address the repairs yourself or sell your property as it is to us for cash.

We’ll buy any property for cash, pay £1,500 towards your legal fees, and complete the purchase within 10 working days or at a timescale that works for you.

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