‘Form’ Is Temporary, ‘Class’ (Action) Might Be Permanent!

iStock Purchase - HousingIt’s so difficult to find time for the important things in life, let alone routine. We’re all so busy rushing around answering emails, phone calls, updating Facebook, fridge calendars, catch up TV; there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything properly. Sounds familiar?

Factor in then, a house move and all the detail that has to go into it, between viewings, mortgage applications, movers, builders, parking permits, change of address. Oh, and holding down a job, and probably a family, and if they haven’t already given up on you – friends.

Then you ask around, make some phone calls, get a quote and if all is agreeable, instruct a (good) solicitor. What happens next: you’re asked to empty your files from the original purchase and also complete a whole bunch of forms, some of which look OK. But some have slightly awkward questions: What was the name of the builder who fixed the roof? No idea if he gave us a guarantee or is worth the paper it’s written on. It was only a few tiles. No idea if the neighbours are planning a loft extension or digging a basement. Haven’t seen them in ages. In any case, is it important? Should we ask the solicitor?

Well spare a thought and some time for Mr and Mrs Abbotts and their experience in Thorp –v– Abbotts, where they were accused of “misleading” the buyers, the Thorps. In the midst of their move, I imagine they went through a similar process described above, including dealing with all the paper work. However, unfortunately for them, they nearly got caught out with what is known as form TA6, or the Sellers Information Form, which amongst other things, asks a seller to confirm whether they are aware of any proposals to develop property or land nearby.

A little bit like insurance questionnaires, it’s tempting to “shade” an answer to achieve an outcome, especially when the alternative response will lead to a short term pain – higher premium or lower sale price. I don’t know what Mr and Mrs Abbotts actually said or truly knew, when they filled out the form. Nor do I know how badly they did or didn’t mislead the buyers, about neighbouring development plans. However, what I do know is, when it transpired that there was a neighbouring development, they were taken to task by the disappointed buyers on what they said, or more importantly, what they didn’t say.

The expression ‘confess now and seek forgiveness’ springs to mind. Better to say more in these situations, and nullify the argument that you have misled the buyer, than say less and get dragged through the mud, both emotionally and financially. Where there is genuine doubt as to what the “correct” answer is, then a well trained and experienced solicitor can help you complete what can otherwise seem a mundane task, and make sure you are fully protected from any potentially nasty litigation – which in many cases will drag on, cost more money than any new curtains or plush sofa. So don’t let a lack of time or understanding spoil your move to that dream home.

In the case of the Abbotts, they were able to escape liability on the basis that, the basic rule of “buyer beware” overrode the particular interpretation in the answers they gave.  However, … let the case stand as a warning not to let a lack of time or understanding, spoil your move to that dream home.  If in doubt, pick up the phone and call the experts.

If in doubt, pick up the phone and call the experts.

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