Seller Questionnaire Dispute Results In Court Battle

The detail needed in the sellers’ questionnaire has been thrown into the spotlight the week as a couple in Oxfordshire pulled out of a sale, despite already making a £108,000 deposit, because the property information they were given omitted crucial details. 

The property transaction involving a £1.08 million barn conversion in Oxfordshire fell through in 2017 and is currently making its way through court after the potential buyers, the Powells, have sued the sellers for “false, misleading and/or inaccurate pre-contact statements”.  

They are attempting to reclaim their £108,000 deposit that was made after contracts were exchanged, in addition to other costs incurred as a result of the perceived poor information they were provided. 

Having made the deposit, completed preparations for moving in, which included purchasing a horse for the stable block included in the purchase, the Powells pulled out after discovering plans for a large-scale redevelopment of a Little Chef and accompanying motel, both of which could be seen from various aspects of the properties land. 

Phillip and Elizabeth Ash, the sellers in the case, claim that the omission from the seller’s questionnaire was legally acceptable because the development would not impact on the property they were selling as it could not be seen from the property.  

Having based the answers solely on the property and not the attached land, they feel the response was acceptable. 

However, the redevelopment could be seen from the Paddock area which, although not attached to the home, was only a matter of yards away and could have a detrimental impact on the saleability and value of the property in the future. 

The Powells have claimed in court that the redevelopment was only discovered after contracts were exchanged and a huge non-refundable deposit made. 

The case, currently making its way through Central London County Court, will provide clarity on the detail expected in a seller’s questionnaire. Legal representatives of the Ash family have argued that their obligations in the transactions had been satisfied and, because the Powells pulled out of the sale, their deposit should be legally forfeit. 

The case throws up a lot of issues concerning subjectivity which could make the enforcement of reservation agreements difficult. 

Recent research into ways of reducing home buying and selling inefficiencies, conducted by IRN, suggested that buyers’ due diligence should improve moving forward. 

39% of the 562 respondents believe the onus for finding property defects should rest with the buyer as opposed to the owner who may have a motive for hiding issues which could hinder the sale. 

40% were also looking to make contract offers legally binding, making legal cases like this vitally important in providing a precedent and context for future sales.  

How much detail is a seller legal obligated to provide? Should issues arising outside the property, become the due diligence of the buyer or should they always rest with the owner?  

3 Comments

  • test

    Any deposit given should be subject to the appropriate searches and survey without this proviso the deposit is given unconditional
    Lawyers should not get involved in matters that do not relate to the legal estate as this will place a risk on their indemnity policy The Buyer must rely on their own inspection and searches

  • test

    Buyers should make all relevant enquiries and searches. However, the sources of information are limited and the seller should know best about his or her own property. The seller’s replies to enquiries should be truthful and complete. Unfortunately, the PIF is wholly useless as it only deals with a few specific matters, including such legal matters as the names of the utility providers and asks nothing about what a property owner may know generally. In the reported case, why does the seller think only part of what is being sold is subject to replies? I suspect there is a lot more to this.

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