If you have any kind of ongoing legal dispute or claim relating to your property, it could make it harder to sell. Buyers will be (rightly) wary of taking on a property with problematic neighbours or a boundary dispute that has been unresolved for years.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at what legal problems and disputes you have to declare when selling a house with legal problems and how to best approach these issues with potential buyers.
What Must a Homeowner Declare When Selling a Property?
It may be tempting to conceal any problems there are with your property in a bid to get more offers, boost the sale price and seal the deal. There is a common misconception that the onus is on the buyer to do their research and find out all they can about a property before signing on the dotted line — it’s a case of caveat emptor (buyer beware), right? Sort of. It is up to the buyer to do their due diligence, but the seller also has a legal duty to declare certain issues.
The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 (CPRs) stipulates that a seller must legally disclose any pertinent information that could influence a prospective buyer’s decision to purchase the property. Examples of such include:
- Major problems revealed by previous surveys
- Proposals for development and construction near the property
- Public rights of way through the grounds (an unregistered easement will not appear on the title deeds so you must tell the buyer)
- Ongoing problems with neighbours, including boundary disputes
- The property’s proximity to motorways, power plants/substations or flight paths
- Outstanding debts associated with the property
- The reason for any previous failed sales
- Alterations and building work made to the property
- Any latent defects in the title to your property
- The presence of neighbours who are known to have an Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO)
- The presence of problem weeds — such as Japanese Knotweed — or pests
- Whether any murders or suicides have been committed on the property recently
- Any applications — pending, approved or declined — for planning permission
- Recent burglaries in the area
This is not an exhaustive list but it gives an idea of the seller’s responsibility for being open and honest with any potential buyer. Your solicitor or conveyancer should help you to identify the information you need to share with the buyer.
What is a TA6 Form?
In addition to declaring the above, all sellers must fill in a Property Information Form, formerly known as a TA6. This provides the buyer with all the information about your property that they could not find out via surveys and standard searches. If your name is on the title deeds, you are responsible for completing this form fully and honestly. The TA6 is part of the pre-contract documents and is legally binding.
What Happens if I Don’t Declare a Legal Problem or Other Issue?
Your buyer can sue you if you lie on the TA6 form or deliberately omit certain information. It isn’t compulsory to complete this form but it would be highly unusual for a seller not to do it — a red flag to the buyer — and most solicitors and conveyancers will insist that you do so. If you refuse to complete the form, the buyer is likely to deduce that you are trying to hide something and may withdraw from the purchase.
If you genuinely don’t know the answer to a question, you can state this. But if you are unable to prove that you didn’t know about the issue in question when challenged, the buyer can sue you for misrepresentation after their purchase has been completed. Even vague answers — not a complete lie but also not the whole truth — could result in a case of misrepresentation.
It’s safer to be upfront and honest than risk the buyer taking legal action against you for misrepresentation of the facts.
If you are sued under the Misrepresentation Act 1967, the burden of proof lies with the seller — you must show that you did not deliberately lie or omit information on the TA6. If you are found guilty, the damages awarded to the buyer could be tens of thousands of pounds. In the worst-case scenario, the court will order rescission of the contract which would force you to buy the property back and cover all of the buyer’s expenses.
Selling a House with Legal Problems
The best way to increase your chances of selling and securing a price you’re happy with is to resolve any problems associated with the property before marketing it. If this is not possible, be honest about any issues. The buyer will find out at some point and if the truth comes out when you’re well into the sale process or even after the transaction has been completed, it could cost you significant amounts of time and money.
If you have an ongoing dispute with a neighbour regarding where the boundary falls between your properties, for example, pull out all the stops to reach an agreement. Try speaking to your neighbour informally at first. If this is not successful or relations have already deteriorated to such an extent that it’s not an option, call in third-party mediation to provide some objectivity. As a last resort, you can call in professional help, such as the local council, or take legal action to resolve the matter. It may seem like a lot of time, hassle and money — and it may well be — but if you can remove the problem before marketing your property, the sales process will be smoother and quicker.
If you’re keen to sell your house fast and make a fresh start elsewhere, House Buyer Bureau can buy your property in as little as 7 days. We have the funds to buy any type of property in any condition in England and Wales.