Buyers of a residential property often ask their conveyancer ‘When buying a house can we rely upon what the seller tells us verbally?’
The answer is generally, no – you can only rely upon what is put in writing by the seller or his/her solicitor. This was recently highlighted in a case Lloyd v Browning 2013.
When you sell a property your solicitor will need you to complete a property information form which asks questions about the property (and this definition of property will include the garden as well as the house). The form covers such items as flooding and planning permission boundaries, and each question must be answered with care as it will form part of the contract with the buyer. The buyer is entitled to rely upon the accuracy of these written replies.
Misrepresentation is a false statement or fact or law that is misleading and induces the buyer to enter into the contract.
Therefore anything you put in writing to the buyer during the sale transaction can be relied upon.
It is important for buyers to appreciate that any discussions with the seller direct may not be replied upon (unless they were made fraudulently or recklessly). This is one of the standard conditions of sale and will form part of the contract between the seller and buyer. It is also a clause that is commonly added to sale contracts by the general legal premise of ‘buyer beware’.
Thus any discussions made direct between a buyer and seller and not followed up via legal representatives in writing may not be wholly relied upon.
This highlights that in all cases the buyer must beware and carry out all enquiries with diligence and ensure they have confirmation in writing of any material points that are important to them.
For further information on purchasing or selling a property, please contact a member of our Residential Conveyancing team on 0161 475 7676.