The question of whether a seller can be sued for misinformation in the conveyancing process has hit the press.
The question was raised last week in the Daily Mail article: ‘Banker sues couple who sold him £1. 9million Thames home ‘because river floods his garden’’
The article reports that the Howd family paid £1. 9million for a home with a garden backing on to the Thames. Before committing to purchasing the property, the Howd’s say they asked the sellers if the property had flooded previously. They were assured that in the 14 years in which the sellers had lived there, there had been no flooding. The sellers however claim that they had assumed the question related to the house rather than the garden, which had flooded in the past.
The Howd’s have now requested that the sale of the house be rescinded i.e. returning the house to the sellers in exchange for the money paid for it.
Mr Howd told the court: ‘This has ruined, to some extent, our lives. Why should I take a financial loss because of the way other people have treated myself and my family?’
According to the Howd’s, their conveyancing solicitors had asked a straightforward question before going through with the purchase: ‘Given its position, please confirm that the property has never suffered from flooding?’
The sellers’ lawyers responded: ‘Our clients confirm that the property has never suffered from flooding during their 14-year occupation. ‘
The case, yet to be determined by the courts, hinges on the question of whether property is defined to go beyond the bricks-and-mortar of the house itself and extends to the garden.
The lesson to be learnt from this case is that, as a seller, when answering questions relating to your property, be sure to consider the full extent of the property, including the garden and any outbuildings.
As a buyer, the case once again illustrates the dangers of Caveat Emptor (Buyer Beware). If you are concerned about a particular issue, be sure to satisfy yourself by asking as many questions as possible and conduct your own independent investigations if you are able. If you feel the seller is evading your queries regarding flooding, question either the neighbours or local authorities in addition to carrying out independent searches.