Cracked run down property passing inspection. SAM Conveyancing's guide on what to do if you bought a house with problems not disclosed
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Bought a House with Problems Not Disclosed

27/04/2023
(Last Updated: 03/05/2023)
594
5 min read
Key Takeaways
  • When buying or selling a house, the responsibility of enquiring about the property falls on the buyer. If you choose to go ahead without investigating, only to then discover home defects after purchase, the seller is not liable.
  • If the seller lies on the property information form or doesn't answer your question truthfully, this can be a property misrepresentation claim and you might be able to sue. You will need supporting evidence to do so.
  • Any third party involved in the transaction can be at fault if you bought a house with problems not disclosed. In this case, you can make a complaint for professional negligence.
  • It is best to raise enquiries prior to purchasing the house, as the statute of limitations for fraudulent misrepresentation claims is six years.

What happens if you find problems after buying a house?

Finding faults after buying a house does not always mean that you can sue seller for not disclosing. Although not mandatory, common practice is that sellers fill in a property information form (TA6). You are then responsible for raising enquiries, getting a house survey and searches, and investigating the condition of the property. Your solicitor should guide you throughout the entire process.

If the seller is not aware of a problem, and therefore cannot answer your enquiries, they must say so and cannot be held responsible for it. If the circumstances change in any way and they then find out more information, they must make you aware. A house survey should reveal any hidden defects. We discuss what to do if your survey fails to uncover these later in the article.

In order to have a property misrepresentation claim, you need to prove that the defect was present prior to exchange of contracts and that the buyer was aware and intentionally gave you false information. In some cases, however, the defect can show up after you move in and you will then be forced to foot the bill yourself.

Did you know?
Properties in the UK are sold as seen, under caveat emptor, which means that when buying a house, you have the sole responsibility for enquiring about the condition of the house. However, the seller must be transparent about any problems they're aware of and their solicitor must answer the legal enquiries raised by yours.

Examples of property misrepresentation cases include:
  • structural problems
  • damp
  • inaccurate description of property boundaries
  • failing to disclose neighbour disputes
  • seller didn't disclose water damage
  • seller didn't disclose mold

Can someone sue after buying a house?

If you've already bought a house with problems not disclosed, and you have evidence to support your claim, you can take the seller to court under the Misrepresentation Act 1967 or make a complaint for professional negligence if the third parties are at fault.

    1
    Seller
If you find home defects after purchase, you can sue seller for not disclosing those, as long as you have enough evidence that the seller was aware of the problem and that they actively tried to mislead you.

The defect would have to be serious enough to affect the value of your home or leave you in negative equity. For example, if your seller lies about building regulations on the property, only for you to later find out that the works are not compliant, you can sue.

The seller is under a legal obligation to accurately and truthfully answer any enquiries raised by you and your solicitor at any stage during the conveyancing process. It is up to the buyer to enquire about the condition of the property, so if you fail to do so, you will bear the sole responsibility once you find home defects after purchase.

    2
    Solicitor
Finding faults after buying a house as a result of the solicitor's negligence can be resolved by complaining to the company at first, or to the The Legal Ombudsman or SRA if the matter is escalated.

You cannot sue you seller's solicitor, since you are not allowed to communicate with them during the purchase process due to conflicts of interests. Your solicitor is responsible for relaying any messages or raising enquiries on your behalf, so should they breach their duty of care to you, you can make a complaint.

    3
    Surveyor
If your surveyor fails to notice serious defects to the property, you can raise a professional negligence claim against them.

    4
    Estate agent
If the estate agent has provided you with false information or misled you in any way, you can first make a complaint directly to them. If, however, you wish to escalate this matter further, you can complain to the The Property Ombudsman Scheme.

Do estate agents have to disclose issues?

Yes, estate agents are liable to:
  • Accurately describe the property to you
  • Disclose any relevant and important information regarding the property
We discuss this in further detail in our article - Estate Agents' Legal Obligations to Buyers

How long do you have to report problems after buying a house?

If you bought a house with problems not disclosed, you have a six year window to make a complaint, but you will need evidence that:
  • the problem existed prior to you exchanging contracts
  • the defect is serious enough to affect the value of your house (you won't be able to sue the seller for matters like a leaky shower)
Alternatively, if this term expires, you might be able to extend it to three years from the moment you discover the defect.

Frequently Asked Questions
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Laura Cristian - Digital Marketing Assistant - Meet the team - SAM Conveyancing
Written by:
Laura has a talent for data analysis and fact-finding. She is an advertising graduate with a broad range of skills in the web marketing field within conveyancing sector. She works closely with our panel of solicitors and surveyors to understand our clients' needs and challenges and to write the most valuable content for you.
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Reviewed by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.

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