If you are planning to put your house on the market, you must try to make your house as appealing as possible to attract potential buyers. This can be tricky if the reason you are selling your property is due to an issue, such as Japanese knotweed, unbearable neighbours or cracks appearing on the walls quicker than you can fill them in.
When you’re trying to sell your house quickly, it can be tempting to not declare certain information which could put buyers off. But when selling your property, it is crucial that you disclose all information otherwise it could come back to bite you at a later date. As the saying goes, “honesty is the best policy” as the last thing you need is to be at risk of your sale falling through, or even being sued at a later date. So, what do you have to declare when selling a house?
1. What do you have to declare when selling a house?
Although many people tell you that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made (also known as “caveat emptor”), but this can only go so far. There is specific information that you must tell your buyer, such as latent defects (hidden issues) if there is no way they could reasonably find out before exchanging contracts. Your solicitor will be able to help you with this.
Furthermore, to give buyers some protection, the usual conveyancing process requires the seller to fill in a “Property Information Form”, or more formally known as a TA6. Essentially, this is to inform buyers of any information about your property that they wouldn’t find elsewhere, such as through a house survey or general viewings.
This document forms part of the pre-contract documents, which means it is legally binding. The buyer is well within their right to sue you if you lie on it, or deliberately conceal something.
What must you disclose when selling a property?
- Hidden defects – such as asbestos or high carbon monoxide levels in the air
- Any problems with neighbours – including boundary disputes, noise arguments, and whether a nearby neighbour has an ASBO
- Applications for planning permission – whether they are pending, approved, or have been denied
- Any alterations or building work carried out to date on the property – certificates, applications for development and planning permission details should be included too
- Buildings insurance details
- Major problems found in previous surveys
- Proposals for nearby development/construction
- Crime rates in the area – such as any known neighbourhood burglaries, murders etc
- Pests or problem weeds that are associated with the property – such as rats, bats or Japanese knotweed
- Location of the house – is it on a flight path or near a motorway?
- Any outstanding debts associated with the property
Please note: What you have to disclose when selling a property is subject to change, as over the years the form has been updated and extended several times.
So now you know the answer to your burning question “what do you have to declare when selling a house?”, you know what to tell prospective buyers who come to view your home.
Even though you might not want to disclose any “negative” information about your home that could potentially put off buyers, remember it’s all subjective. Something that may be an issue to you, may not be an issue to someone else.
Remember these points when speaking to buyers:
- Consider the issue in the eyes of a ‘reasonable’ buyer’ – if a reasonable person will consider something a negative factor, it should be disclosed.
- Consider context – if your prospective buyer is young and single, the chances are a noisy neighbourhood, or a nearby bar or club won’t be as much of an issue as it will be to a young family or elderly couple.
- Consult with a solicitor – if you aren’t sure what you have to declare when selling a house, ask your estate agent or solicitor.
2. How will the TA6 form affect my property sale?
In the majority of cases, filling out a TA6 form will not affect your house sale. In some instances, depending on the severity of the property’s issues, it may affect the time your property is on the market, or the sale price. But, once you compare this to going through court and the fees you must pay if you don’t disclose these details, it is definitely a no-brainer.
Once you have disclosed the information, it is up to those who are considering buying your home. If they move forward, that decision is purely down to them.
If there are certain issues with your home that may make it difficult to sell, you may need to insure you have the appropriate paperwork. For instance, if your property previously had Japanese knotweed, you should produce the necessary paperwork for when it was treated and the outcome. Giving a buyer full picture and context can often help a buyer see your side and feel confident in moving ahead with the purchase.
3. What happens if you don’t complete the TA6 form?
Although it isn’t compulsory to fill in the form, most conveyancing solicitors will insist that you do. If your solicitor holds the Conveyancing Quality Scheme accreditation (ideally, they should), they will insist that you do complete this form.
It’s worth mentioning that if your solicitor doesn’t insist you complete TA6 you can, in theory, decide not to. But it’s always worth doing it as it can cause major red flags with the buyer’s solicitor as it will be obvious that you are trying to conceal something, which may cause the sale to fall through. Therefore, it is worth asking your solicitor or estate agent for the form.
4. What happens if you lie on the TA6 form?
What to declare when selling a house is up to the buyer, but anything they add must be correct and to the best to their knowledge. Do not be vague – the form has been designed and updated to try to avoid vague replies and many questions require a straight yes or no answer, meaning that you are either telling the truth, or lying.
It is understandable that if you have any property issues, you may be tempted to tell a white lie on the form. For instance, you may say that you get on well with your neighbours, when in fact you have an ongoing boundary dispute or a long-running row about noise.
Your seller may not find this out before the exchange of contracts, so you might think that it is perfectly fine. However, if the lie is revealed afterwards by a neighbour, they are well within their right to sue for damages. After all, one lie might lead to another…
If you are unsure what to include on the form, such as whether to declare that you have had a minor dispute with a neighbour in the past which has since been resolved, it is worth discussing with your solicitor. But as a general rule of thumb, anything that was put in writing to a neighbour, or phone calls made to the council or the police, needs to be mentioned.
5. Failure to disclose when selling a house?
Put simply, if you fail to declare property information, you can be sued.
Under the Misrepresentation Act (1967), the burden of proof of misrepresentation has shifted from buyer to seller. This means that it isn’t up to the buyer to prove you lied on the form, it’s up to you to prove you didn’t if they make a claim against you. If a court finds you guilty – whether it be fraudulent, negligent or innocent – they can order you to pay damages to your buyer, which can be tens of thousands of pounds depending on the nature of the problem.
If you have lied and the case of misrepresentation is serious enough, the court may order rescission of the contact. This means that you will need to buy back your old property and cover any of your buyer’s expenses, including mortgage interest and legal costs.
If your property has several different issues which you fear may impact the sale of your home and how much money it is worth, we can take your property off of your hands for cash. Here at Fast Sale Today, we guarantee a cash offer in just 48 hours, and a sale within 7 days – get in contact with the team today to get your free valuation.
Feature image credit: Suzyanne16 / Shutterstock