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Bought a House With Problems Not Disclosed, What Can I Do?

Buying a new house is not a task without stress. No matter how helpful the agents are, there are aspects that are out of your control. Buyers are typically nervous of chains breaking or drawn-out legal elements. However, there are some purchases where problems with the house are not disclosed. Rarely are these issues due to seller or agent negligence – they just haven’t been found before the property went on the market.

Fortunately, discovering any undisclosed issues doesn’t mean that a sale cannot continue, or that the buyer will be out of pocket solving the problem. Below, we highlight where buyers stand and different solutions before and after completion.

Do sellers legally have to disclose problems with the home?

During the conveyancing process a seller will be asked a multitude of questions about the property they’re selling. These must be answered honestly and to the best of their knowledge. Sellers can choose not to answer specific questions – but this should be a red flag to any buyers. All communication, whether during conveyancing or otherwise, should be honest and truthful. This extends to trying to temporarily hide any issues before putting the property on the market, such as covering up damp or cracks.

Failure to disclose known issues could result in the seller being sued for compensation under The Misrepresentations Act.

How can buyers best protect themselves?

Buyers need to complete their due diligence on a property they’re buying. Commissioning a survey is a popular choice. A chartered surveyor will inspect the potential purchase thoroughly for any problems which will be detailed in a report. Buyers can choose how detailed the survey is – most surveyors offer different levels of inspection. Having a survey completed means leverage for the buyer should any issues are found.

Undisclosed problems pre-completion

If a buyer has completed the necessary checks and a problem has been highlighted in the survey there are three options:

  • The buyer pulls out of the sale
  • The buyer requests the seller reduces the price
  • The buyer requests the seller pays to fix the issue

The seller is not legally obligated to provide a solution. However, those serious about selling usually do so as the problem would need to be disclosed going forward to any other interested parties.

If a buyer is unhappy with a seller’s reaction to any issues being highlighted, then pulling out of the sale may be the wisest decision.

Discovering problems after completion

What happens if a sale has completed and issues surface? Unless the property is a new build, pursuing action with the seller isn’t often advised if the problem does not affect the value of the property.

Often the severity of the issue determines how to proceed. The following will require action and it would be in a buyer’s best interest to pursue the seller:

  • Structural defects
  • Damp or dry rot
  • Japanese knotweed
  • Neighbour disputes
  • Local planning developments

Compensation for the buyer

As previously mentioned, if any of these issues are found after completion compensation can be sought as per The Misrepresentation Act. It does not matter if the seller was fraudulent (they lied on purpose), negligent (they didn’t do enough to provide information) or innocent (they thought they were telling the truth) you can seek compensation.

Buyers will need to prove:

  • The misrepresentation is fact
  • The information influenced the decision to buy the property
  • The information was false when contracts were signed
  • There has been financial loss as a result

Buyers have six years to claim against a seller. This timeframe is awarded as often it can take time living in a property to discover any issues. A solicitor will be able to help any buyers who believe they have a misrepresentation case to proceed with.

Following a claim there are three common outcomes:

  • The dispute is settled in the buyers favour and they are awarded damages
  • The contract is rescinded altogether and the seller has to buy their home back
  • The dispute is settled in the seller’s favour

An option for sellers

For those considering putting their home on the market but are anxious about their home having issues they’re unaware of, why not consider an alternative? At Gaffsy, we buy any house regardless of its location, condition, or size. We are cash house buyers, which means we can offer you a cash offer on your property so you can secure a guaranteed sale regardless of the condition of your home. This means you can enjoy a chain-free, stress-free sale and move on to your next home. Get a free cash offer today.

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