Buyers of properties in the UK should understand home sellers’ responsibilities. Although home sellers are required to provide information regarding defects and issues, buyers must exercise diligence to ensure they’re not caught off-guard by unexpected expenses. Here are some tips in that regard, courtesy of Forbes Digital Hub.
Sellers’ Legal Responsibilities
Home ownership in the UK requires that properties be either:
- Freehold: You own the building and land in perpetuity
- Leasehold: You own a long-term lease on the property (40, 90, and 120 years are common examples)
When selling freehold property, sellers must supply information about the property to buyers and complete a TA6 Property Information Form. The TA6 form is a comprehensive questionnaire detailing the extent of the property, shared boundaries, alterations, service rights, utilities, and defects. Sellers must also obtain an Energy Performance Certificate. If a freehold property shares services with others, sellers must provide a Freehold Management Form.
Sellers of leasehold properties must give buyers a management pack containing LPE1 and LPE2 leasehold forms providing detailed leasehold information. In Scotland, sellers must include a home report.
Sellers’ Responsibilities Regarding Defects
Sellers must inform buyers of defects. This is partially covered by the TA6 form, although there isn’t space for much detail. Nevertheless, it’s the seller’s responsibility to provide information on all property defects, usually through a surveyor’s house survey. If this isn’t available, potential buyers should arrange their own survey before sale closure. Remember, the seller doesn’t have to repair defects provided the buyer is fully informed of their existence.
Negotiating Who Fixes Defects
With a better understanding of the home’s condition, you can negotiate with the seller to decide who’s responsible for fixing defects. If the seller is reluctant, use the defects to negotiate a lower sales price, as fixing defects increases your total purchase cost.
If not already done, get a property valuation performed and compare sales prices in the area to get a better understanding of what the property is worth, taking defects into account.
Weigh up the total purchase and refurbishment costs against what you can realistically afford. Don’t get into a situation where subsequent repairs turn out to be unaffordable.
What to Do if You Buy Property as it Stands
If the seller is willing to lower their price, you may decide to buy the home “as-is” and assume the risk of getting it repaired. Before doing this, get a detailed surveyor’s report and obtain estimates for the repairs. Typical issues you may face include:
- Asbestos removal
- Electrical problems
- Poor insulation
- Roof leaks
- Cracked and damaged plaster
- Wood rot
When taking on a home repair project, allow for unexpected expenses and increase your estimate by at least 20%.
Getting It All Together
In the UK, home reports aren’t required, but sellers must inform buyers of all known defects of the property. Sellers don’t have to repair defects, but buyers can use defects as a negotiating tactic to either persuade the seller to fix them before sale closure or sell the property at a reduced price.
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