What Do You Have To Disclose When Selling A House In The UK?

What Do You Have To Disclose When Selling A House In The UK?
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If you are selling your home and not asking “What do you have to disclose when selling a house in the UK?”, then you really should be doing so.

That’s because there are potential legal and financial repercussions for being less than honest with a potential buyer.

To avoid legal difficulties, you will need to provide certain information. And, while you will want to make your home appear as desirable as possible in order to find a buyer, there are other obligations too.

While it is tempting to only offer positive information about your home in a bid to persuade someone to buy it, there may be issues in hiding some negative details which could cause you trouble later on.

It does seem counter-productive to have an ‘honesty is the best policy’ approach when selling a home, but this really is the best course of action.

Legal obligation for sellers

Let’s start with the seller’s legal position when we consider the question: what do you have to disclose when selling a house in the UK?

It’s important to appreciate that secrecy is not permitted under any circumstances by law, so you’ll need to declare all the positive and also the negative details of your home.

That’s because the buyer must have complete information to enable them to make the right decision before buying it.

Failing to do so could see you ending up in court, so you’ll need to tell the buyer everything necessary on the Property Information Form, also known as the TA6.

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The information that you have to disclose on this form includes:

  • Details of neighbour disputes which include those not adjacent to the property
  • Information on your property boundaries between you and neighbours
  • Any notices of planning permission or development of nearby properties (NOTE: this includes properties that are not just your neighbours)
  • Building and alterations work that has been carried out in the property – which includes planning permission details and building control completion certificates.
  • Your building insurance details.

The form plays a crucial role and should be filled in – you can’t pretend that you didn’t see it since it’s an important part of the selling process.

While it’s not a legal obligation to complete the TA6 form, it’s part of the conveyancing process and any good solicitor will ask you to complete it.

If you don’t complete it fully or lie, then the buyer could sue, if they find out at a later date.

For example, a seller who failed to accurately declare the presence of Japanese knotweed was sued for over £200,000 for damages. The report published in Today’s Conveyancer, detailed that the seller chose ‘no’ on the TA6 form regarding knotweed despite evidence of previous ineffective herbicide treatment to the plant.

Declaring a dispute with your neighbours

Bad neighbours when selling

This form will need details of everything that may impact the buyer’s lifestyle and enjoyment of their new home. So do you have to disclose bad neighbours when selling a house? Yes, you do.

If you are having a long-running feud or dispute with one of your neighbours then you need to say so. This is what many people wonder about when they ask “what do you have to disclose when selling a house in the UK?”.

But what constitutes a dispute with your neighbours? Is it a dispute if their kids threw the ball in your garden, and you had to bring it back and ask them to be more careful in the future? No, this would not be classed as a dispute, unless it happened on a regular basis, and you have complained about it officially.

Basically, there is no legal definition of what would be classed as a dispute, so it’s open to interpretation. But as a rule, if you have complained to the local council or another authority about your neighbours, then this would constitute a dispute.

If you have written to your neighbours to complain about something, such as noise, then this would also be seen as dispute, and you would have to disclose it. If you have had several arguments with them over a period of say months or even years, then this should also be disclosed.

If you are in doubt, ask your solicitor for advice.

When we sold our last home, we questioned if we had a dispute with the neighbours. During the first lockdown at the start of the COVID pandemic, our neighbour got furloughed. So he was home all day and decided to do some DIY.

Unfortunately, he chose to do his noisy work in front of the window of the room my wife was working in. We were working from home during the lockdown. This meant that she had to try and have meetings and work under difficult conditions.

I did mention to him that we were working from home and in which room my wife was working in an attempt to encourage him to do his work further away from our house. But we didn’t actually complain as such.

So when we came to sell our house, we were deliberating about disclosing it or not. After a chat with our solicitor, he told us that it wasn’t a dispute, and therefore we didn’t have to disclose it. So if you aren’t sure if you have a dispute with your neighbours, ask your solicitor for advice.

We can not stress this enough. One of the first reported misrepresentation cases involved sellers who did not disclose neighbour disputes over an access road and rubbish disposal.

In 2003, the Guardian reported how Ian and Julie Long were legally obligated to compensate their buyers for about £67,500. The couple ticked ‘no’ on the property information regarding disputes.

Caveat emptor – buyer beware

Also, you’ll need to be wary about anyone telling you that the rules when selling a home are ‘caveat emptor’ – which is Latin for ‘buyer beware’ – because while this is true, it’s only a limited truth.

This legal concept states that it’s the buyer’s responsibility to ensure the quality and suitability of the product they buy. And while it’s a legal principle that does apply to buying property, it doesn’t mean that you can conceal things or lie.

As we have mentioned, there is a legal obligation that a home seller must tell the buyer about any defects to their property, particularly if there is no way they could find out the information before exchanging contracts.

This means it’s something that a homebuyer survey or a search would not bring up, such as a dispute with your neighbours.

Or, having an ‘unregistered easement’ which may be something like a right of way that isn’t detailed on the title deeds will potentially cause an issue.

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It’s at this point that you should really approach your solicitor to help you work out what you need to legally disclose to your potential buyer.

The standard conveyancing process will give the buyer protection, but you will need to answer the questions on the TA6 to give your buyer lots of information about your home that they would be unable to discover through the usual channels.

Avoid the temptation to tell a little lie

When people wonder what to disclose when selling a house in the UK, they often think that a little lie won’t hurt. Even if it might sound like no big deal at all, avoid the temptation to tell a little lie. And especially a big one.

As an example, you may say that you get along with all of your neighbours, and you have never had a run-in with any of them.

However, if it later transpires that you’ve been involved with a long-running row with a neighbour about noise or there’s a boundary dispute with the property next door, then you’re in hot water. Even if you never complained to any authority or written them a letter.

This information may come to light should a neighbour reveal after the exchange of contracts that you’ve lied, then the buyer will be entitled to seek legal redress.

Imagine how you would feel if you had bought a property and had problem neighbours – you would be looking to sue the seller. So, why would your buyer not sue you?

It’s also worth highlighting that your solicitor is the best person to answer the question: what do you have to disclose when selling a house in the UK?

For example, if you’ve had a minor falling out with a neighbour, and it’s been resolved, then they can help you decide whether you should declare this on the form or not.

Another issue when it comes to declaring problems with your property to a potential seller will cover issues with the previous owner.

There’s no point being vague with answers, so you could honestly answer to the ‘any building works’ questions that you’ve not carried out any building work since you have owned the property.

However, this is a grey area. If you know that significant building works were carried out previously to your homeownership then these works should be mentioned.

The topic of Japanese knotweed is a sore one. Nonetheless, it is your duty as a seller to disclose if you are aware of its presence.

It may be tempting to to feign ignorance, yet buyers will be prepared to sue you if they can prove otherwise.

According to a Yougov survey, two out of three buyers will escalate the matter to the court if sellers fail to declare a Japanese knotweed infestation.

Failure to complete the TA6 form

TA6 Property Information Form

There’s no doubt that for some people selling a home the form will reveal more about their property that they would prefer to keep quiet.

So, what happens if you decide not to complete the form?

Essentially, there’s no compulsory requirement to complete the form but most conveyancing solicitors will insist that you do fill it out.

This will be the case if they are holding a Conveyancing Quality Scheme accreditation which establishes the protocol.

In theory, if your solicitor says you don’t have to complete the form then you may decide not to.

However, not completing the form will create an issue for the buyer’s solicitor and since it’s now a standard part of the conveyancing process they will be asking particular questions and expecting answers.

Should you avoid giving the answers, it will become obvious that you’ve got something to hide.

It’s at this point that your buyer may ‘smell a rat’ and decide to gazunder you or even pull out completely. In some cases, the buyer’s solicitor may advise that the purchase does not proceed.

There are other questions you may have on what to disclose to a potential property buyer in the UK and here are some of them:

Do you have to disclose if someone died in a house in the UK?

Selling house someone died in

You should put this information on the form – though realistically for a very old house there may be information you are unaware of. Also, not all legal experts agree that this information has a ‘material impact’ on the disclosure process, so it’s best to speak with your solicitor.

The law makes clear that you should disclose a murder or suicide though natural death is a grey area. Expect a potential buyer to negotiate a discount should they find out.

Unfortunately, when it comes to more violent circumstances, buyers may feel blindsided. In some cases, the court can even get involved.

As reported by the Daily Mail, Alan and Susan Sykes found out that their newly purchased property was the site of a grisly murder. A dentist murdered and dismembered his adopted daughter within the West Yorkshire home. The stress of its history and potentially finding hidden body parts was too much for the couple.

They attempted to sue the sellers for damages in 2004 and sold the home at a loss of £8,000. Unfortunately, their claims were rejected by the court.

And these questions are rare, but still deserve answers:

  • Do you have to disclose a fire when selling a house?
  • Do you have to disclose a burglary when selling a house?
  • Asbestos disclosure when selling a house in the UK

The answer to all of these questions is that it is best to list them and detail the repairs or security improvements that you undertook.

Asbestos is obviously an issue, and you will need to highlight its presence to a potential buyer because should it be disturbed then experts will need to be brought in to remove it safely.

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What must estate agents disclose in the UK?

Appointing an estate agent to act on your behalf for selling your home means that they will need to advise a potential buyer on what is on the TA6.

An estate agent, like the seller, isn’t allowed to conceal or lie about any information they have about the property. They have to be honest and tell a potential buyer anything important about the house, as far as they are aware.

Should you decide to withhold information on the form and from your agent, then this will be considered as misrepresentation and will delay the process of selling your property. Also, there will be issues that may affect the valuation of the property too.

Do estate agents have to disclose survey results?

The short answer to the question ‘Do estate agents have to disclose survey results?’ is ‘Yes’. Under the consumer protection regulations, they must disclose pertinent information about the property which may influence the buyer’s decision.

Pertinent information is defined as information that should be disclosed at the earliest opportunity and which may be material to advise a decision and entering into a transaction.

For example, if there have been several failed bids to buy a property because the roof needs replacing, then the estate agent should be flagging this up when you take an interest in a property and particularly before you make an offer.

Being sued by your buyer

Being sued by buyer of house

Finally, it’s also worth noting where you stand should your buyer decide to sue you. So knowing the answer to the question “what do you have to disclose when selling a house in the UK?” is a vital one.

They may decide to take action under the Misrepresentation Act 1967 and the burden of proof has shifted from the buyer to the seller.

This now means that the buyer no longer has to prove that you lied on the form, it’s now up to you to prove that you didn’t, should they decide to make a claim.

Then, should a court find you guilty of misrepresentation, which covers negligence and fraudulent activity, you can be ordered to pay damages to the buyer.

Depending on the nature of the problem, this could cost you tens of thousands of pounds.

Worst-case scenario

In a worst-case scenario, should the court decide that your misrepresentation was serious enough, then they can force you to buy back the property and cover the buyer’s expenses, including legal costs and mortgage interest.

This is known as issuing an ‘order of rescission’ and is likely to cost you a small fortune.

It’s also worth noting that the issue of misrepresentation is not just confined to the property information form. If you deliberately misrepresent your home to a potential buyer by concealing progressive, major cracks that you suspect – or know – are caused by substantial subsidence, then this will cause a problem too.

The bottom line about what you have to disclose when selling a house in the UK is: tell everything the buyer should know. That’s because the cost and hassle involved should a buyer decide to sue you for misrepresentation will far outweigh the potential embarrassment of disclosing property defects or neighbour issues.

The best way to avoid any issues further down the line is to ask your solicitor for advice. They can tell you all about what to disclose when selling a house in the UK.

More information

Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

Authors

  • Steve Lumley

    Steve Lumley has years of experience writing about property. His output has covered everything from property investment, news for landlords and student tenants to articles on how to run a successful portfolio and starting out as a property investor. He has also written several books on the subject.

    View all posts
  • Paul James

    Paul James, is a marketing expert with a passion for property. As well as being a property investor, Paul has also worked within the marketing departments of some of the UK’s leading estate agents. Paul is the founder of Property Road.

    View all posts
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