You may have seen media reports over the past few days about a case recently decided in London involving a misrepresentation claim brought by the owner of a house against the former owners.
What was the misrepresentation claim about?
The focus of the alleged misrepresentation was Japanese Knotweed and the former owner's apparent failure to disclose its presence in the garden when selling.
Why is Japanese Knotweed a problem?
Knotweed has become such an invasive and problematic plant that a specific question – “Is the property affected by Japanese knotweed?” - is now asked in the property information form.
What is a Property Information Form?
This is a key form completed as part of the conveyancing process to provide a prospective buyer with information about the property. Sellers can respond with a yes, no or not known answer.
Why is this case of interest?
The seller in this recent case indicated on the form that there was no knotweed; but knotweed was growing behind the garden shed, and there was reportedly evidence before the court that that knotweed had shown signs of having been treated with herbicide.
What was the outcome?
Misrepresentation cases arising from property sales sometimes hit the headlines, usually because there can be significant financial cost to the unsuccessful party. In this instance, the combined damages and costs bill reportedly cost the seller more than £200,000. However, proving misrepresentation in these situations is not easy; if a seller can show that they reasonably and genuinely believed that the response they gave when selling was accurate, a buyer will face an uphill struggle in bringing a claim.
What are the key takeaways?
Whilst sellers of properties should not unduly worry, the case serves as a useful reminder to anyone completing the property information form. The form carries a warning that urges sellers to ensure that answers are accurate - the findings of this case demonstrate that this is not just small print to be skimmed over.
What can I do to avoid this happening to me?
It is really important that anyone completing a property information form takes time to complete it and ensures the answers are genuinely accurate. If not, those answers may well come back to bite you!
How we can help
To talk to one of our dedicated team about anything mentioned in this insight, please contact us.