Can you sue someone after buying a house from them?
In an ideal world, we would purchase our dream home and live in it happily ever after. Or at least for a few years until we’re ready for something else.
For an unlucky few, it doesn’t work out this way. For some people, the dream of home ownership can turn into a nightmare – with serious problems only discovered after you’ve exchanged contracts.
If this sounds like your situation, and you believe the seller knew about the issues at the point of sale, you might be wondering whether you can sue them.
Let’s explore your options.
Can you sue someone after buying their house?
The short answer is yes. A buyer can make a legal claim against a seller after purchasing a property from them in the UK.
If the buyer believes that the seller significantly misrepresented the condition or some other aspect of the property, they may have a case under UK law so long as certain conditions are met.
These conditions include things like the amount of time that has passed since the sale, and whether the buyer can prove misrepresentation under UK law.
The good news is that buying a house in the UK is protected under a set of regulations called ‘Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008’ or CPRs. CPRs stated that any agent or seller who provides false information amounting to 'misleading actions' or 'misleading omissions' during the selling process will have committed a crime.
What counts as a ‘misleading action’ or ‘misleading omission’?
You might be wondering what counts as a misleading action or omission. The scope is quite broad, so it's best to think of it in simple terms – that the seller is obliged to declare upfront all known information – whether positive or negative – pertaining to the property.
So, if anything was misrepresented or left out at the point of sale that has an impact on the property's value, the new owner’s health or their use of the property, this could be grounds for legal action by the buyer to reclaim compensation. This includes latent or material defects that significantly impact the property's value or put people at risk.
Things like undeclared damp, structural issues, toxic plants or materials, neighbourly disputes, flooding, proposed developments and boundary disagreements are all potential grounds for the buyer to sue.
Does having a TA6 form protect the seller from being sued?
Not necessarily. As part of the selling process, most sellers complete a Property Information Form known as a TA6. This document should include all the critical information about the property, from its boundaries, parking, neighbourly disputes, change of use notices, planning proposals, environmental matters, insurance and much more.
In addition to the TA6, there is the TA10 form which sets out the fixtures, fittings and furnishings that will be included with the sale.
If the seller doesn’t know an answer to a question on the TA6 or T10 forms, they should let their solicitor know. It is possible to leave sections blank, but it's likely to put off potential buyers, so having all the information – good and bad – is best.
These forms are legally binding, and deliberately presenting false information on this form is a big no-no. Anyone that does runs the risk of a claim being made against them by the buyer following the completion of the sale.
I want to sue the person who sold me my house
If you've bought a property based on information you later discovered was false or misleading, you may have grounds for a claim against the seller.
First, consider the statute of limitations. This is the length of time that has passed since you completed on the property, and it can be anywhere from two to six years. After the statute of limitations has passed, you’re generally unable to make a claim.
If it’s within the statute of limitations, you may be able to either:
- Receive compensation from the seller in the form of damages
- Get the contract dissolved and receive your money back
However, for either of these to happen, you'd need to prove that the seller knew about the issue. This could be in the form of written communication with the seller prior to the sale or official documentation such as council records which indicate knowledge, for example, correspondence about a boundary dispute.
If you feel that you can prove the seller was aware of the issue, you should consult a solicitor who deals with property misrepresentation claims. With their help, you should send a letter to the seller explaining your position and plan to seek damages via the court system. You should familiarise yourself with the Misrepresentations Act 1967, although your solicitor should walk you through the process of lodging a claim. They will have to prove misrepresentation under UK law, but as they're experts in law, they'll have a good idea of whether your claim will be successful from the outset.
What about the home survey?
If this has happened to you, you might wonder why your surveyor didn't pick up on the issues with your property. Surveyors aren’t infallible, and it’s rare but not impossible for oversights to happen. It’s the seller’s legal duty to declare known issues with the property, but if you think the surveyor was negligent in their work, you can pursue a separate claim against them.
Some final thoughts
If you’re the buyer, you should always exercise caution before you buy any property. A thorough home survey and the conveyancing process should shake down most major issues, but we know that sometimes problems simply fall through the cracks. Having a solicitor on your side who has taken on – and won – cases like yours before will be key to your success.
And if any sellers are reading this – never be tempted to omit or misrepresent anything about the property you’re selling. Even if you manage to defend yourself against the charges, legal battles never come cheap.