Q I’m in the process of purchasing a property and have had my offer accepted. I’ve also just had a building survey completed that has highlighted serious issues with the roof, which means that extensive work or replacement is required.
The property has been on the market for more than a year with a number of failed sales. At the time of putting in my offer, I asked why the sales fell through and if there was any major remedial work that was required, the estate agent cited various reasons, but none were due to the building condition. That contradicts what my surveyor told me which was that he’d previously done a valuation on the same property whereby he’d given a much lower valuation because of the condition of the roof. Based on my surveyor’s comments I feel the estate agent has either lied or been misleading about the condition of the property and about the reasons for the failure of previous sales. So far I’ve paid out for the survey and various conveyancing costs. Do I have any recourse against the estate agent to recover my costs?
A The estate agent you have been dealing with seems to have forgotten that under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 – also more snappily known as Consumer Protection Regulations (CPRs) – he/she must disclose any pertinent information about a property which might influence a prospective buyer’s decision. According to the Property Ombudsman “pertinent” information is information considered material to a consumer’s decision to enter into a transaction and it should be disclosed at the earliest opportunity. To put it another way, if a reasonable person would take a piece of information as a negative factor in the decision-making process, then it should be disclosed. Pertinent information includes, among a whole host of other things, the reasons why previous sales have fallen through and problems highlighted in previous surveys. Providing misleading information or failing to mention something that is relevant can result in criminal charges being taken against the seller or estate agent.
If, as I suspect is the case, you would not have put in an offer or paid for a survey had you known about the condition of the roof, I would say that you have reasonable grounds for complaint. You might find it useful to use the “How to make a complaint” guidance – which includes sample letters – on the Property Ombudsman’s website. To start with you’ll need to make a written complaint to the estate agent detailing what the problem was and how you would like them to resolve your complaint – such as reimburse the costs you have incurred. If you get no joy from the estate agent, you .