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Keen to get rid of problem property?

Houses are sold for a variety of reasons – upsizing, downsizing, relocating, cashing in equity or maybe even because there are problems with it.

Whatever the reason, it is essential that would-be-property sellers fully understand the importance of giving honest and accurate responses – unless they want to land themselves in court.

In the Home Information Pack (form TA6) sellers are asked a series of questions – the answers to these are a crucial part of the contract between the buyer and seller; deliberately misleading the buyer amounts to fraud.

One couple who answered “no” on their form claiming that they were unaware of any disputes about the property they were selling had to pay their buyers over £67,000 compensation after they were found to have deliberately lied to cover a longstanding dispute with their neighbour.

In his summing up, Mr Justice Astill, said: “This is precisely the kind of information that must be disclosed to a potential purchaser for them to be able to make up their minds whether they wish to buy a property.

The seller’s property information form could not be expressed in clearer language …. It is not a lawyer’s form, but one which is designed for everyone to be able to understand.”

Claiming compensation is not the only course of action for buyers who find themselves in the midst of a fraudulent property sale.

Businessman Paul Edwards and his wife Hazel bought what they thought was their dream home. A particular selling point of the £750,000 property was the stunning garden. Despite being assured by the seller that the property had never flooded, less than a year later Mr and Mrs Edwards were horrified to find their garden had “turned into a lake”.  A few months later it flooded again and on the third occasion, the flooding was so bad that it also affected the basement of the house.

The seller, Robert Corson had apparently been well aware of the flood risk. Some 2-years before the sale, he had posted photos of the flooded garden on Facebook, with one friend commenting on the post “perhaps it’s time to pull the plug.”

Mr and Mrs Edwards have now applied to the High Court for a ‘rescission on the sale contract’. If this is upheld, the seller will have to take back the property and refund the full amount paid. In addition, the couple are also claiming a refund of their mortgage payments and compensation for mental distress and inconvenience.

Martin Roberts, presenter of TV property auction show, Homes under the Hammer, said: “It is very easy to think you can get away with just ticking these boxes, but you have to answer these things to the best of your ability and truthfully, otherwise you are misleading the buyer. People don’t buy houses sold as seen, unless they are at an auction.”

Author: Gail Harris