Telegraph e-paper

– do I have to tell the buyer?’

find out the history of your house – or, if they do not find out, it is their fault for not trying hard enough and you should not have to tell them.

Except I think you do have to tell them. This is because as well as “caveat emptor” there is an additional layer of legal protection to house buyers in terms of the law around misrepresentation.

The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations are intended to help situations where a contract is created in circumstances that are unfair to the buyer. These legal rules apply to many consumer contracts, including house sales. In property transactions, the rules impose a duty for both estate agents and house sellers to disclose any information relevant to the value of a property.

This means you should tell your estate agent the history of the house and ask for comment about its potential impact on value.

If you do not do this, you run the risk of the buyer finding out later, which may then give them a claim for misrepresentation, and could amount to a breach of contract.

This legal principle was set out in a contract law case as far back as 1834, called Flight v Booth. This established that a party could rescind (or cancel) a contract which contains a misdescription if the misrepresentation was so substantial that it meant the party would not have entered the contract. Here, the issue of living in a house where a murder has taken place is so emotive I believe you are at risk that, without full disclosure of the history, the threshold in Flight v Booth for rescinding a contract would be reached.

Furthermore, the rule in Flight v Booth by which a buyer may rescind a contract is set out at clause 7.1 of the Law Society Standard Conditions of Sale (5th Edition), which is the usual contract used in any property transaction.

If any contract is rescinded it means in legal terms it is null and void. If this happened to you, the legal and financial consequences could be disastrous – especially if you are in a chain to buy alternative property. All of this means that you must make any buyer aware of the history of your house.

How this information is managed and disclosed is another matter to be agreed with your estate agent. I suggest that if your asking price is discounted, this is explained as soon as possible to any interested party and before they themselves incur any costs associated with the house buying process.

I do hope your move goes well.

‘Ask A Lawyer’ should not be taken as formal legal advice, but rather as a starting point for readers to undertake their own further research.





Daily Telegraph