As a part of the conveyancing process the seller is required to complete the Seller Property Information Form (SPIF) or TA6 Form. This property information form lists a number of questions the seller is expected to answer truthfully, and if they don’t they could be sued.
This is why it’s important if a seller lied on the Seller Property Information Form that you discover after you’ve exchanged or completed on a property, as you may be able to recover any losses you suffer.
If a seller lied on their property information form the seller may be liable to pay damages to the buyer for misrepresentation. But it’s important for buyers to beware and to do their own due diligence by paying for a survey, searches and doing other checks to make sure the property has no issues.
Please also read this article to discover how you could save £71,475 on your next mortgage if you sell your house and rent before buying again. Even I was amazed when I did the calculations! The strategies you learn in this article will not only save you money, but it will also reduce the stress of buying your next house.
So what is a Seller Property Information Form (SPIF), and what questions does this require sellers to answer?
Questions on a Seller Property Information Form
- Boundaries: You have to disclose which boundaries are the responsibility of the property owner, as this will affect who has to pay to repair or replace fences.
- Disputes and complaints: If there have been any disputes or complaints regarding the property or a property nearby, these should be disclosed on the seller property information form.
- Notices and proposals: This is to disclose any notices or correspondence received, for example from or to a neighbour, council or government department. It also includes any negotiations or discussions that have taken place that affect the property or a property nearby. This also includes if the seller is aware of any proposals to develop property or land nearby, or of any proposals to make alterations to buildings nearby.
- Alterations, planning and building control: This is to disclose any alterations to the property, including obtaining planning permission and relevant building control certificates for works done before and during the sellers ownership. This would include extensions, loft or garage conversions and the removal of internal walls. It also includes any change of use, the installation of replacement windows, installation of solar panels and the addition of a conservatory.
- Guarantees and warranties: This is to disclose any guarantees and warranties on things like damp proofing, timber treatments, electrical work, under pinning, roofing, Japanese Knotweed, central heating and windows or conservatories.
- Insurance: This is to confirm whether or not the seller insures the property, and if so has the seller made any claims on buildings insurance, which would include on an insurance claim for subsidence. The seller also need to disclose if the insurance is subject to unusual conditions or has been refused, whether there is a high excess or if the insurance is subject to an abnormal rise in premiums.
- Environmental matters: This is to disclosed if the property has ever been flooded and the type of flooding, including ground water, sewer water, surface water, coastal flooding or river flooding. Other disclosures include Radon and if a Radon test has been done, details about the property’s energy efficiency, which is satisfied with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). The other disclose required on this section of the form is about Japanese Knotweed and if there is a Japanese knotweed management and treatment plan in place.
- Rights and informal arrangements: This includes for example if ownership of the property carries a responsibility to contribute towards the cost of any jointly used services, such as maintenance of a private road or unadopted road, a shared driveway, a boundary or drain. Also if the property benefits from any rights or arrangements over any neighbouring property. Or if there are any services cross the property or neighbouring property.
- Parking: This is to provide answers to parking arrangements at the property.
- Other charges: This is to disclose if the seller has to pay any charges relating to the property (excluding any payments such as council tax, utility charges, etc.), for example payments to a management company.
- Occupiers of the property: This is to disclose who lives at the property, other than the sellers and if the property is being sold with vacant possession.
- Services: This is to confirm if the whole or any part of the electrical installation has been tested by a qualified and registered electrician. Also, if the property has been rewired or had any electrical installation work carried out since 1 January 2005. Plus details about the central heating system and drainage, including a connection to the mains or a septic tank.
- Connection to utilities and services: This is to confirm what services the property has connected to it, including mains gas, mains electric, mains water, mains sewerage, telephone and cable.
- Transaction information: This is to disclose if the sale is dependent on the seller completing the purchase of another property on the same day*. Plus to confirm if the sale price is sufficient to repay all mortgages and charges secured on the property.
* You may be interested to read more about sellers lying about their onward purchase here: Lying About No Onward Chain + Seller Lied About Being Chain Free.
It is important the seller is honest on the Seller Property Information Form, and if they don’t know the answer they should say so, or ask their solicitor for advice.
What happens if a seller lied on a seller property information form?
If a seller lied on a property information form, the buyer may be entitled to claim damages from the seller if it can be proved that the lie caused loss to the buyer, and had they known the truth they may not have bought the property, or would have paid less.
Are property information forms legally binding?
Property information forms are legally binding documents that disclose information to the buyer about a property. If the property is different to how it is described on this form, the buyer can seek compensation from the seller for misrepresentation.
Suing a seller will be costly if they lied on property information form
Before you sue a seller because they lied on a seller property information form, consider your options carefully, as it isn’t an easy process and can be very costly.
There are no guarantees of winning your claim or of getting paid. You may win your claim, but courts don’t always award costs in full, so you may end up being out of pocket.
But often times and if you check on previous cases where the seller has lied on the property information form, the judge will often rule in favour of the seller quoting “Buyer Beware“.
For this reason, it is very important you do your own due diligence before buying any property.
Ways to protect yourself against seller lying on property information form
To protect yourself against a seller lying on seller property information form you need to do as much due diligence on a property before you buy. This includes the following:
- Visit property on more than one occasion: Visiting a property more than once is something that can protect you from a seller’s lies.
- Property survey: A property survey is worth it when buying any property, as this should uncover any problems a property has, like subsidence, Japanese Knotweed, damp problems and so on.
- Local authority searches: It is important to have the searches carried out on a property to make sure nothing shows up that will affect its value in the future, or problems that could make it more difficult to sell.
- Flood plain searches: It’s important to check if the house is subject to floods, especially if it’s on a flood plain. Using Google to search for recent floods is another way to check if the house has previously flooded.
- Visit the local authority: Visit the local authority and check if any complaints have been made for noise disturbances or ask about any neighbour disputes. The local authority may not necessarily disclose disputes due to GDPR rules, but if the sellers have made formal complaints about noise or any other anti-social behaviour this should be disclosed by the authority.
- Check the planning portal: Whilst the searches should uncover any planning that may affect the property, it doesn’t harm to check for any planning applications yourself. It might even be worth checking this before you exchange contracts, as the searches may be out of date by the time you get to exchange.
- Speak with neighbours: It’s always a good idea to speak with nearby neighbours*, as they will know if there are any noise disturbances or if there have been any neighbour disputes.
- Check what is near the property: Check nearby for sports clubs, night clubs, pubs and other places where you may have noisy neighbours. This also includes a park near the house, as parks can be busy and noisy too.
* I suggest you also read this article “Seller Lied About Neighbours: Can You Sue The Seller”, as you will find that nearly 50% of sellers lie about bad neighbours!
If you find a seller lied on property information form don’t delay
If you discover a problem with a property where the seller lied on the seller property information form, don’t delay before seeking recourse from the seller. Having said that, the buyer has up to six years from the date of completing on the property to make a claim against the seller.
What are the consequences of misrepresentation by lying on the property information form?
If a seller misleads a buyer this can be a breach of the Misrepresentation Act, which means the buyer can pursue the seller for compensation if they lied or misled them.
If in doubt about how to answer any of the questions on the seller property information form, speak with a conveyancing solicitor.
The onus is on the seller to prove the buyer was not misled, but if they are successful, the buyer can claim damages against the seller.
A claim for damages will likely be the difference between the amount paid for a property and the amount it would have been worth had the issue been known at the time.
But it may cost more in legal fees to take a claim of this nature to court than the claim is worth, and there’s no guarantee the buyer would recoup all the legal fees if they win the claim.
Please don’t forget to read this before you leave…
Please don’t forget to also read this article to discover how you could save £71,475 on your next mortgage if you sell your house and rent before buying again. As I said earlier, even I was amazed when I did the calculations! Learn about how you will reduce the stress of moving house, whilst at the same time potentially save thousands in the process!
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