Despite stringent regulations, sellers do not disclose problems to buyers

Water damage and noisy neighbours are among things house sellers must disclose before the sale, but many still fail to

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Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading regulations, a home owner selling their property is legally obliged to disclose any problems with the property, including structural damage, neighbour disputes or issues with the local council, and failed home surveys. Failing to do so could result in a fine, conviction, and even imprisonment of up to two years.  

And yet, many new home owners still routinely discover faults with their new properties only after moving in. Covered up water damage, nightmare neighbours, and council disputes remain the most common faults new property owners find once they have moved in. While a leaking tap will be easy enough to fix, a flood-damaged basement, for example, presents far more difficulties and expense. 

For the buyer, contacting their solicitor as soon as the problem is discovered is the best course of action, as the solicitor will be able to determine how to proceed, depending on whether the failure to disclose a problem with the property was intended or accidental. According to the circumstances, it is possible to rescind the contract altogether or, if the buyer is lucky enough not to have completed the purchase, not to complete. 

However, launching into protracted (and expensive) legal action instead of enjoying a new home is hardly anyone's idea of a successful house move, and paying for an independent home survey still remains the safest way to prevent trouble before committing to a house. 

In the case of plumbing or electrical issues specifically, it's advisable to visit the property with a qualified plumber or electrician who will be able to identify problems that might not be obvious to a non-professional. Chief Executive Officer at leading trade directory Checkatrade, Mike Fairman, comments, 'Buying a house is one of the biggest investments you’ll make and while it is extremely exciting, there are some key checks to ensure that your dream move doesn’t turn into an expensive mistake.'