Enquiries are a vital part of any property transaction, whether residential or commercial, for both buyer and seller.
In residential transactions, a standard Property Information Form is supplied to sellers to complete and for commercial matters, a set of commercial property enquiries relevant to the transaction must also be completed. Both of sets of these enquiries are reasonably vague and wide reaching, aiming to capture the majority of troublesome issues which may arise in any transaction with more specific enquiries often raised thereafter, generally based on the answers given.
It is, however, important that they are taken seriously by both parties. The responses given in the enquiry forms can be relied upon by a buyer post completion and should a seller have been found to have given false or misleading information, they could be liable for a misrepresentation claim.
This has been highlighted in the recent court case of Downing v Henderson, which found in favour of Mr Downing.
In 2018, Mr Downing purchased a property in south-west London from Mr Henderson with plans to build a workshop for himself in the back garden. Following completion, Mr Downing discovered that there was Japanese Knotweed located in the back garden.
One of the enquiries in the TA6 Property Information Form completed by all sellers in residential property transactions specifically asks if the seller is aware of any Japanese Knotweed at the property. In this case, the seller had said that there was not any. He maintained this in court stating that he has reasonably believed that this was the truth when he completed the form as there was a large bush in situ during his ownership, which he believed had stunted the growth of the invasive plant. The purchaser had subsequently cut the bush back and, Mr Henderson argued, this caused the plant to grow more ferociously than before. The court, however, disagreed finding evidence that the knotweed had previously been treated and experts believed that it had been there since at least 2012.
The court asserted that by ticking “no” on the enquiries form, the seller had chosen to make a positive assertion, which was a misrepresentation. The court consequently awarded damages to the buyer in the sum of £32,000 together with his legal costs in the sum of £100,000.
For legal advice on the buying or selling of residential or commercial property, or disputes which may arise afterwards, please contact our experts at Farleys on 0845 287 0939, contact us by email, or through the online chat below.