Property Vendors - Information Requests Must Be Accurately Answered!

Requests for information prior to completion of property transactions must always be fully and accurately answered. However, in one case where that did not happen, a flat purchaser won £15,000 in damages after the vendor failed to inform her of an ongoing dispute concerning a defective heating system.

Prior to the transaction, the vendor was formally asked if there were any current disputes that might affect the flat’s value. Its response did not mention that other residents of the gated estate had complained about the poor performance of its biomass boiler. The purchaser paid £240,000 for the flat and, shortly after she moved in, she was without any heating for four consecutive days.

In upholding her claim against the vendor, a judge found that there had been a dispute concerning the boiler that the vendor had been duty-bound to disclose. Having regard to the defects in the heating system, she should have paid no more than £225,000 for the flat and she was awarded compensation on that basis.

In dismissing the vendor’s challenge to that ruling, the Court of Appeal rejected arguments that the purchaser’s case depended on mere hearsay, in the form of gossipy conversations with her neighbours. The judge was entitled to find on the evidence that a relevant dispute had existed prior to the sale and that it should have been disclosed. His assessment of damages also could not be faulted.