Up front information for property sellers

Homeowners wishing to sell their house normally appoint an estate agent to deal with the marketing of the property and find a buyer.

Homeowners wishing to sell their house normally appoint an estate agent to deal with the marketing of the property and find a buyer. A seller and buyer will usually only appoint a conveyancer to assist them once the deal has been agreed in principle. However, this might be about to change.

In late 2023, Trading Standards issued guidance informing estate agents what information should be made available to buyers when the property is marketed. This is known as Material Information. Much of the Material Information is straightforward with agents being required to disclose issues such as: price, council tax band, whether leasehold or freehold, utilities and the property type. But many commentators wonder whether one section of the Material Information requirements have strayed into the area usually dealt with by the buyer's conveyancer as it covers such issues as: rights and easements, flood risk, planning and coal mining risk.

The Law Society produces most of the key documents used by conveyancers in the conveyancing process, including the Property Information Form. They have caused a stir by issuing an updated version of the from which includes much of the Material Information that Trading Standards says should be disclosed on property listings by estate agents.

Using the updated Property Information Form is not mandatory, but many sellers and buyers are likely to see it. Sellers should carefully consider the information that they are willing to disclose when the property is marketed. Buyers should be careful to ensure that they understand what the information means at the point they put in an offer for a property.

They key is that context is everything. A property might be affected by a covenant (an obligation affecting the land) stating that it cannot be used for anything other than a single dwelling house. This will not be a problem for a buyer who just wants to live in the property that is already there. But the covenant might be a big problem for a buyer who wants to purchase it as an investment and build another two houses in the garden. Taking early legal advice can provide advice in the right context.

These risks to sellers and buyers suggest that both should consider instructing a conveyancer to advise them much earlier in a property transaction than has been usual to date. The final question on the updates Property Information Form tells a seller:

'If there is any further information about any of your answers on this form, please provide them below and/or supply additional documents.'

Many would think that getting specialist advice to know what to disclose and what these disclosures mean is a prudent move.

To discuss this or any other property matter, contact us.