Whether you are buying or selling you will no doubt come across the Property Information Forms.
The Sellers Property Information Form should be completed to the best of the sellers’ knowledge and the replies should be checked carefully by the buyer. If the replies differ from what you have been told about the property then you should inform your solicitor so that further enquiries can be raised. Any difference must be dealt with before exchange of contracts. You will find most of the replies somewhat non-committal and I would point out that the seller is under no obligation to advise you of any defects in the property unless a query is specifically raised.
Please note the property is sold as it stands. Any defects found after exchange of contracts will be your responsibility and you should satisfy yourself fully as to the condition of the property prior to exchange of contracts.
The seller does not have to tell you about physical problems with the property. If you have any doubts you should have a structural survey carried out.
It is entirely up to the buyer to ensure that the property is satisfactory in all respects in so far as the structure, plumbing, electrical wiring, central heating and the physical appearance of the property in general is concerned. If any defects are discovered once exchange of contracts has taken place then no liability attaches to the seller through the failure of the buyer to have adequately checked the property.
Once contracts have been exchanged if a problem arises in relation to the structure of the property or any matter relating thereto insofar as central heating, plumbing, gas or electricity is concerned I am afraid that compensation cannot be obtained for you from the sellers. You should make sure you are entirely happy with the property before you authorise exchange of contracts.
The responsibility is with the buyer to ensure that the property is in an acceptable structural condition. If you have not yet done so, please arrange a survey. There are various types of survey available, varying in detail and cost. If you have opted for the cheaper form of valuation from a lender it is likely that you will be unable to rely on the result as, even though you have paid for it, it will be for the lender’s benefit only. Further, the valuer will only be assessing the property from a financial angle, not from the angle of one who has to live there.
‘Caveat emptor’ [“Let the buyer beware”]
This is a common law maxim warning a buyer that he cannot claim that his purchase is void or voidable unless he protects himself by obtaining express guarantees from the seller. The maxim has been modified by Statute; under the Sale of Goods Act a contract for the sale of goods has implied terms requiring the goods to correspond with their description and any sample and if such goods are sold in the course of business then they must be of satisfactory quality and fit for the purpose represented by the seller. These implied terms do not apply to sales of land and therefore you are advised that you should take every precaution to ensure that any statements made to you by the seller as to the condition of the property or indeed to the condition of any of the fixtures included in the sale such as the central heating boiler and system, gas/electric fires, cooker etc. are secured in writing. If such written guarantees are not forthcoming, then it is up to you to check the condition of the property and the fixtures by employing experts to advise you.
If you have any queries or concerns about your property then make sure you speak to your solicitor before you authorise exchange of contracts.