What to do if you’ve bought a house with problems not disclosed

Buying a house is, for most people, the purchase of a lifetime, and anxieties around any potential undisclosed problems are entirely understandable. 

Thankfully, discovering an undisclosed problem doesn’t necessarily spell disaster, however the severity of the situation depends on several factors. If the problems are discovered prior to completion, a buyer can either pull out of the sale outright, or make demands such as that the seller reduces the price or pays for the problem to be fixed. 

If they are discovered after completion, all is not lost either, and if a buyer can argue that the seller misrepresented the condition of the house, whether intentionally or not, compensation can be sought.

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Your rights before you buy

Prior to the purchase of a house, it is the buyer’s duty to complete their due diligence – to establish that the house is in a condition that suits their needs and they are willing to buy. 

This is most commonly done through the commissioning of a survey, which requires that a chartered surveyor thoroughly inspect the property for any issues, structural or otherwise. This inspection also offers a kind of insurance; if the surveyor misses a major fault which is present at the time of inspection, they can be held responsible for compensation. 

The burden is not entirely on the buyer though – the seller must disclose any issues on their Seller Property Information Form, or they can be held accountable. At any point until exchange of contracts, either side can walk away from the whole deal, for example if problems show up that the seller is not willing or able to resolve. 

If a buyer has been diligent in their inspection, it is unlikely they would be unable to seek compensation after completion has taken place.

What to do if problems are discovered after the property purchase

Whether action is appropriate or not depends on the severity of the issue. In short, if it does not affect the value of the property, it is not worth pursuing with the seller, unless it is a new build.

Issues in this category might include a dripping shower head or a cupboard which doesn’t close. Issue which might require action however include those such as:

  • Structural damage.
  • Damp or rot.
  • Local planning developments which could affect the value, such as major roads.
  • Non-trivial neighbourly disputes.

To make a claim against the seller, you will have to prove that: 

  • The issue was present at the time of signing the contacts.
  • The issue is real and not of your own opinion.
  • Your asset has been significantly impacted to your detriment.

You will in most cases have six years to bring a claim against the seller, which should be ample time for any problems which are going to come about to emerge. 

The amount you are awarded, should your claim be successful, will likely be the difference between the amount paid for the property and the amount it is worth in lieu of the damages.

Whether you’re a first-time buyer or are looking to expand your property portfolio, our team at Seymours are here to help. Contact the team today for more information.