Contract disputes can be difficult to resolve, especially where property is concerned. Contracts are exchanged during a property purchase to protect both the buyer and the seller. The Standard Conditions of Sale (Fifth Edition) are used during residential property transactions and can be referred to during any disputes that arise, particularly if any action is taken by either party involved.
This is the first of two articles in relation to property contracts. This article focuses on common contract problems that are experienced by a buyer of a property. Look out for our next article dealing with the common problems experienced by sellers.
We’ve taken a look at some of the situations where property contract disputes can arise so that you know exactly what to do and when you should enlist the help of contract dispute solicitors for your situation.
When a seller pulls out of a house sale
Although uncommon, sometimes you can run into problems with a seller before a contract is even completed. It’s not unheard of to see sellers pulling out of a house sale at the last minute. The reasons for this can vary, however, this can cause issues, as the buyer may lose out on costs associated with purchasing the property, such as solicitors fees, survey costs and mortgage valuation costs, all of which cannot be refunded if the property isn’t sold.
When you exchange contracts, you are usually required to pay a deposit and a date is set for completion. Sometimes this is simultaneous and in that instance it would be extremely rare not to have a seller complete. However, in most instances there is a gap between exchange and completion. The standard is 20 working days after exchange of contracts but this can be shortened or lengthened by agreement.
So what then happens when you get the completion date but the seller does not complete? Your solicitor can in the first instance serve a document on the seller called a Notice to Complete. This then makes time of the essence under the contract and unless the seller completes within the time period provided then you are entitled to claim back your deposit and to rescind the contract.
If they fail to return your deposit plus interest then you may have to pursue legal action against them. However, whilst there is a legal obligation to return the deposit and interest there is no legal obligation to repay to you any other costs that you have incurred in buying the property such as surveyors and solicitors costs. Thankfully, occurrences such as this are quite rare.
When a seller doesn’t vacate
Once you have completed the sale, the seller is required to give you vacant possession of the property and hand over the keys.
However, on occasion, we have heard of buyers arriving at the property with the seller still in situ because they have not prepared themselves to vacate.
Again this is unusual but whilst you may have a claim to bring against a seller who has not given you vacant possession, practically speaking this does not assist the buyer who is sat outside in a removal van waiting to get into their new home.
The best thing is to call your solicitor and tell them about the situation so that they can apply pressure to the seller, to vacate asap and allow you to take up occupation of your new home!
When there are problems with a house after completion
Unfortunately, in some cases, issues can arise after you’ve moved into your new property. This can cause issues if these problems weren’t disclosed by your property seller before the property was in your possession.
In order to prevent these disputes from arising, it’s essential that you carry out your own checks on the property to make sure everything is in working order before you begin the completion process. This can help you to avoid issues further down the line, and give you peace of mind that your property seller isn’t hiding any major issues.
However, if you have bought a house where problems were not disclosed, you may be able to take legal action against your seller. This is known as misrepresentation but is specifically covered under the Standard Conditions of Sale (Fifth Edition).
If you feel that there is a problem with the property that has not been disclosed when it ought to have been then you should seek advice from a specialist dispute resolution solicitor who can tell you how best to deal with the issue.
Sometimes these issues can be relatively minor and not worth pursuing, such as a leaky tap or minor faults with the property, but then can often be very substantial and expensive to resolve. The most difficult one can be where you buy a property with an ongoing neighbour dispute that has not been disclosed.
When an issue can turn into a negligence claim
Sometimes you discover an issue with your property after moving in, which you feel ought to have been part of your solicitor’s job when you purchased the property.
Often, negligence claims can arise from property transactions – for example, there may be issues with the title to the property or to the extent of the land you thought you were buying. If you have concerns regarding the solicitor’s conduct then you should seek independent advice as soon as possible.
Property contract dispute resolution options
If you’re in the midst of a property contract dispute, this can leave you feeling stressed, worn-out and unsure of who to turn to for help. Fortunately, there are a few options that you can explore to get your dispute resolved as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Can someone sue after buying a house in the UK?
Depending on the individual circumstances, you may be able to sue after buying a house. If you’re unsure of whether you can sue after you’ve bought a property, it’s best to seek legal advice to avoid wasting time, money and resources.
Enlist the help of a contract dispute solicitor
A dedicated contract dispute solicitor is trained to deal with the difficult and often complicated issues that can arise when it comes to contract disputes. Therefore, this is usually your best option when it comes to getting your dispute resolved as swiftly as possible.