TA6 Guidance Impact On Property Sector
Last month, the Law Society published updated property information forms (TA6). Having reviewed the updates, a number of amendments regarding Japanese Knotweed were made to reflect the difficulty in diagnosing an issue with the invasive plant.
Sections referring to the ‘eradication’ of any known infestation of the knotweed was replaced with ‘managing its regrowth’ to emphasise the uncertainty of the plant’s extermination.
Similarly, when asked to disclose any known problems with the property using the old system, vendors were asked to reply with a declarative ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
However, the new system allows the seller to respond by stating ‘not known,’ effectively mitigating any blame which could be bestowed upon them if the buyer later discovers an issue.
A number of cases have already been fought over who is liable for Japanese knotweed damage after buyers purchase a property in good faith only to discover the plant and its destructive threat after completion.
The new guidance now places greater emphasis on the buyer to research issues which could present problems in the future.
Some have argued that this additional level of due diligence could result in fall through rates and increases in contentious transactions.
Others believe that increased information from sellers and more accountability for buyers to look for any issues or noticeable defects will only improve the transparency and confidence in the home buying and selling process.
What impact, if any, will the TA6 amendments have on the property sector?
Paul Sams, partner at Dutton Gregory Solicitors, commented:
“Will the slight tweaks make a difference to how Conveyancers and Consumers treat matters in the TA 6 form? No, I don’t think they will make much difference at all.
“Sure, changing the wording to be slightly more colloquial should help some sellers be able to complete the form. However, this assumes one fundamental thing – that sellers know they have Knotweed on their property or not.
“Every first year law student understands the significance of Rylands v Fletcher when it comes to things on your land but do homeowners really know what they have on their land? I actually doubt it very much.
“Couple this with the fact that the reality is that Japanese Knotweed is not really that bad. The poor plant has been demonised so much it will probably shrivel up in the shame the abuse it has had. What people need to remember is that it can be treated. It is not going to turn into a Triffid and swallow up people’s children or miniature dachshunds.
When it comes to form TA 6, and pardon the pun in the context of these comments, surely we would be better off with a root and branch review of the whole form to bring it into the 21st Century as we have been using this form for decades.
“A classic example I have had recently is the sellers stated that “hopefully” vacant possession would be provided at completion. Surely changing the wording to say “Please confirm the owners and any other person or animal at the property will be leaving when completion takes place?” would remove ambiguity or am I just living in hope?”
John Jones, Head of Residential Conveyancing at BBH Legal Services, said:
“The TA6 changes make sense and will not adversely impact the home selling and buying process.
“‘Caveat Emptor’ requires a buyer to identify issues about a property before exchanging contracts. An exception is the seller’s duty to disclose latent defects albeit limited to the seller’s actual knowledge. In contrast, a patent defect is one the buyer should discover on a reasonable inspection and survey of the property.
“Surely, Japanese Knotweed, present at a Property, is a patent defect. So, unless the Seller was aware or should have known, there is no duty to disclose. The buyer should check.”