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What should I declare when selling my home?

August 16, 2019
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If you’re thinking about selling your home, you may be wondering about the legal requirements. While you will naturally want to highlight the positives and gloss over any negatives, there are rules surrounding what you must legally declare when selling your home.

All sales and home descriptions are governed by the Consumer Protection Against Unfair Trading Rules. These rules are in place to protect buyers and ensure they have all the right information to allow them to make a decision. 

If you fail to declare something important during the selling process, you could face prosecution as it is a criminal offence to withhold information. This is why it’s always best to err on the side of caution and let the buyer know everything they need to make an informed decision.

What do I legally have to declare?

Before you can sell your home through a UK estate agent, you will need to fill in a number of forms. These forms will outline why you are selling and also cover any important points which need to be noted about the property. In general, you will need to declare the following:

  • Any structural changes to the property which have been made, either by you or by a previous owner
  • Disputes about party walls and boundaries
  • The presence of Japanese knotweed on the land and how it is being managed
  • If any of your neighbours have an ASBO
  • If your property is on a flight path
  • If there has been a violent death at the property
  • If the area has unusually high crime levels

These might all sound like the kind of things you want to keep quiet from potential buyers, but you will have to disclose them to your estate agent. If you aren’t sure what is relevant, check with your estate agent or conveyancing solicitor. 

Declaring subsidence

The issue of subsidence falls under the structural integrity of the property. If your property or any extensions or planning permission applications have been affected by subsidence, you should provide as much information as possible. You might think that this would put buyers (and their lenders) off, but a well-managed case of subsidence doesn’t have to be cause for concern.

Provided you have the right paperwork in order and the condition is under control, it shouldn’t have a huge impact on the value of your property. And by declaring it, you will help to give your buyer peace of mind.

There is no time limit on how long you have to declare subsidence. This means that any old cases should always be mentioned, even if they are no longer problematic. This will nearly always come to light in the buying process, so it makes sense to be upfront. These are some of the most common ways that a case of subsidence will come to light.

  • The buyer’s solicitor uncovers it during their searches
  • The surveyor notes physical evidence
  • The buyer’s insurance provider uncovers a record of it on a central insurance database

For this reason, it makes sense to declare everything from the start so there is no confusion. A nasty surprise further down the line could quickly sour the buying process.

When do I need a TA6 form?

When you sell your property, you will need to fill in this document. It’s around 15 pages long and covers a range of questions related to your property. If you fail to disclose something that later causes a problem for the buyer, you could face legal action. It is intended to be a comprehensive document which helps to establish everything the buyer needs to know about the property.

In 2017, the TA6 form was revised to include the presence of Japanese Knotweed on your property. It’s important that you make sure you understand the document and what is being asked of you. The responsibility lies on the seller to ensure the document is accurate and that they understand what they are signing. Vague answers might help to sell your home faster, but they also leave you open to legal action in the future.

Honesty is always best

While it might feel like you are sabotaging your own chances of selling your property, it’s a legal requirement that you share all of the negative details. If you are moving into a new home, imagine that the seller of your new home hid vital information from you. If the tables were turned, you would likely be distraught to learn that your new dream home had a history of structural problems.

While some details might rule out your property for some buyers, others will be willing to overlook the issues because the property has enough redeeming features. By being honest and open about the property from the start, you will avoid unnecessary viewings and will automatically narrow down the potential viewings to people who are aware of the risks. In many cases, these issues won’t impact the value of the property, provided that the issues are under control. 

Another benefit to being honest when selling your property is that it protects you from legal action. When selling your property, you should always keep your documents in order and make sure you keep evidence of your declarations. This should protect you from legal action should the buyer decide to sue you for misrepresentation. If at any stage you are unsure about your legal obligations, check with your estate agent. They will know how to be honest about the problems with your property without putting off potential buyers. 

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