Brief-Case – your legal dilemmas solved

By  Philippa Rudd, a partner with Cozens-Hardy solicitors in Norwich

Philippa_Rudd_cutI hope to put my house on the market in the spring, but there are a number of issues which I fear may put off buyers. I am not sure how much we have to reveal to any prospective buyers – can you please let me know what the law is.

As with my last column on ‘Pests’, the principle of ‘caveat emptor’ applies, which means ‘let the buyer beware’. However, some matters must be disclosed to a buyer, such as latent encumbrances and defects in your title. What issues are concerning you?

Well, somebody died at our house in a fairly gruesome manner (a previous owner was murdered in the garden). Can I keep quiet about this?

Yes, you are not obliged to reveal such historical incidents. And such matters are not normally covered in the enquiries raised by the buyer’s solicitors.

Also, for many months now we have had problems with our neighbours. They have teenage sons who make a great deal of noise late at night, especially at weekends and we have had to complain to the neighbours about them frequently blocking the entrance to our driveway. We have spoken to them and to the council but the problems persist. 

If the problems have become a dispute rather than just an annoyance, then it should be disclosed, otherwise, the buyer may be able to claim damages from you one day for non-disclosure. Having such a problem next door could affect the value of the house. The Property Information Questionnaire, which you will have to complete (as part of the Home Information Pack), specifically asks about disputes.

My girlfriend and I are separating and she claims that she has a share in the house, although the deeds are in my sole name. Will this be a problem? She is still living at the house with me.

Full disclosure of occupiers’ rights should be made. Your girlfriend will probably be asked to sign a form consenting to the sale. If she refuses, a buyer will be reluctant to proceed as your girlfriend may refuse to vacate – and you could end up with her refusing to vacate on the moving date.

Philippa’s on 01603  625231.

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