Buying a new home can be incredibly stressful, with a lot at stake, given that this is likely to represent the most expensive purchase that any of us will ever make in our lifetimes. It therefore goes without saying that when we buy a property, we will want to make sure that we have been given all of the important facts by the person who knows that property best, the seller. But what happens if the information given by the seller is incorrect or incomplete?
The following article looks at the rules relating to seller’s property information forms and whether a buyer can sue if ‘the seller lied on property information form UK’.
What is the seller’s property information form?
Form TA6 is used by the seller to provide the prospective buyer with detailed information in relation to the property to be sold. It asks a number of questions, the answers of which could easily influence the buyer’s decision to proceed with the purchase.
What information does the seller’s property information form cover?
There are a 14 sections in total, where the seller is asked to disclose information about:
- Boundaries: this section is designed to identify the broad extent of the property and who is responsible for maintenance of the boundaries.
- Disputes and complaints: this section is designed to elicit information about any existing or historical disputes or complaints regarding the property or a property nearby, for example, noisy neighbours, or anything that could lead to a complaint in the future.
- Notices and Proposals: this section is designed to elicit information about any notices or proposals that may affect the property, or a property or land nearby.
- Alterations, planning and/or building control: this section is designed to establish whether any alterations or changes have been made to the property, including the garden, and that any works undertaken have the proper consents and approvals.
- Guarantees and warranties: this section is designed to identify information about any guarantees or warranties that relate to the property and any claims made under these.
- Insurance: this section is designed to identify information about insurance taken out on the property and any claims made under a policy.
- Environmental matters: this section is designed to elicit information about environmental matters affecting the property, including flooding, radioactive gas found in the ground called Radon, the energy efficiency rating and the invasive plant known as Japanese knotweed.
- Rights and informal arrangements: this section is designed to establish details about any rights or arrangements relating to access or shared use over the property, or any neighbouring property. This includes any rights created formally through a written deed, or informally through a verbal agreement between property owners.
- Parking: this section is designed to elicit information about the parking arrangements at the property, including permit parking.
- Other charges: this section is designed to establish whether there are any charges, such as payments to a management company, affecting the property.
- Occupiers: this section is designed to establish the rights of any occupiers who are living at the property, and may continue to remain in occupation on completion.
- Services: this section is designed to establish the services supplied to the property, including electricity, central heating, drainage and sewerage.
- Connection to utilities and services: this section is designed to provide details of who is supplying utilities and services to the property, including mains electricity, mains gas, mains water, main sewerage, telephone and cable.
- Transaction information: this section is designed to provide any information affecting the sale of the property, including questions about the condition it will be left in by the seller.
Is the seller’s property information form mandatory?
There is no legal duty on the seller of a property to voluntarily disclose any issues or defects, and completing a property information form is not mandatory. Introduced by the Law Society, this form contains several standard enquiries made by a buyer, and is intended to encourage a true and constructive exchange of information about the property to be sold.
The property information form can be completed in full, in part or not at all, although any delay or omissions on the sellers part to provide the information requested may hold up or hinder the sale. For this reason, most sellers will happily provide the information set out in the form to help facilitate the sale and to speed things up. Further, having agreed to complete the form, the seller has a duty to answer all property enquiries honestly and accurately.
However, the seller can only answer the questions on the property information form based on the information known to them at the time, and they are not expected to have knowledge of matters that occurred prior to their own purchase of the property. Equally, they are not expected to have expert knowledge of legal or technical matters. For example, under the ‘Rights and informal arrangements’ section, the seller may not know if the property legally benefits from rights of light or rights of support from adjoining properties.
To this end, when completing the form, sellers are given the following written advice:
- If they do not know the answer to any question, they must state as much on the form
If they are unsure of the meaning of any questions or answers, they should ask their solicitor
- If they subsequently become aware of any information which would alter any replies they have given, they must inform their solicitor immediately, where this is as important as giving correct or complete answers in the first place
- They should pass to their solicitor any notices that they subsequently receive concerning the property before completion of the sale
- They should not change any arrangements concerning the property, such as taking on a new tenant or agreeing access rights with a neighbour, without consulting with their solicitor
- If there is more than one seller, answers to the questions on the form should be prepared together or, where only one seller is completing the form, the other(s) should check the answers given. All sellers should also sign the form once it’s completed.
Can you take action against seller for lying on the property information form?
Property misrepresentation, sometimes described as property misinformation, refers to circumstances in which the seller of a property has provided incorrect or incomplete information on the property information form. This can also include where the seller has given inaccurate or misleading information to the buyer otherwise in writing or verbally, whether through their estate agent or solicitor, or directly to the buyer in conversation.
The nature of the action to be taken in relation to property misrepresentation will very much depend on whether or not the sale has completed. If the sale has not yet gone through when anything misleading about the property comes to light, the buyer may refuse to proceed. They may also seek to negotiate a reduction in the sale price to help mitigate the issues involved.
In contrast, if the sale has already gone through, and exchange and completion have taken place, the buyer may have a claim for compensation against the seller. This is because the law in England and Wales helps to protect buyers who are persuaded to buy something that is not as it seems and they suffer a financial loss as a result. In relation to property purchases, if the seller deliberately or otherwise fails to disclose something important which they are asked about during the sale process, or they have lied on the property information form, this may amount to an actionable claim for misrepresentation and/or breach of contract. This can be the case, regardless of whether a statement is made innocently, negligently or fraudulently.
If there is more than one seller, where the property was owned jointly, they may be held jointly and severally liable for any damages awarded in the buyer’s favour.
Can you sue a seller for lying on the property information form?
In most cases, the buyer of a property is responsible for making any necessary checks on their prospective new home before they buy it. However, if the seller of that property has made serious misrepresentations which the buyer has relied on prior to exchanging contracts, they may be able to sue them. This could include where the seller has failed to disclose key information —either when asked on the property information form or in response to direct enquiries — such as any history of flooding, proposed planning in the area that could effect the value of the property or an ongoing boundary dispute with a difficult neighbour.
To sue a seller for property misrepresentation and/or breach of contract, a claim would need to be issued in the civil courts. A buyer will be awarded compensation if the court is satisfied that the seller misrepresented certain facts about the property that resulted in the buyer proceeding with the sale and incurring some form of financial loss. However, this type of claim can involve complex points of fact and law for which advice should be sought from an expert.
Buyers seeking to claim compensation for any misrepresentation or breach should also prepare themselves for a potentially lengthy process. In cases where the seller admits any wrongdoing, the case may be concluded in a few short months, but this can take far longer if the seller denies the allegations of property misinformation made against them. This could be, for example, where the buyer is seeking to rescind the sale contract altogether for serious defects that the seller knew about but failed to disclose prior to completion.
Can you sue a professional for providing misleading information?
There are some circumstances where a buyer may be able to claim against a professional involved in their property purchase, provided that person has misled the buyer and the buyer subsequently acted on that misrepresentation in purchasing the property.
If either a solicitor or estate agent involved in the sale process misrepresent the property to a buyer — provided the buyer can show that the individual or firm failed in their duty of care and the buyer has lost out as a result — they may have a claim for professional negligence.
Equally, where a buyer has instructed a surveyor to prepare a report on the condition of the property prior to purchase, and it subsequently transpires that there are serious defects which the surveyor failed to identify, the buyer may have a claim for professional negligence. The property information form itself advises buyers that they are entitled to rely on the replies given by sellers to the form’s enquiries, but in relation to the physical condition of the property, any replies should not be treated as a substitute for undertaking their own survey or making their own independent enquiries, which they are recommended to do.
Bringing a claim for misrepresentation against either a private seller and/or a professional involved in the sale process can involve a whole host of legal hurdles to overcome. However, with the right advice and assistance, the courts will endeavour to put a misled buyer back in the position that they would have been in but for any misrepresentation.
Seller lied on property information form FAQs
What happens if you lie on a property information form?
Lying on a property information form, or failing to provide accurate and complete information about a property in response to direct enquiries, may expose you to a claim for compensation on the basis of misrepresentation or breach of contract.
Can I sue house seller UK?
If it is clear that important representations made about a house are either incorrect or incomplete, where the seller knowingly misrepresented certain facts about the property that resulted in you buying it, you may be able to sue the seller.
Is a TA6 form legally binding?
A TA6 form is not, of itself, legally binding, but any responses to questions on the seller’s property information form make these part of the sale contract. This means that the seller must answer these questions honestly and accurately.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.