Moisture dampens our purchase joy

Our lawyer, Fiona McNulty, advises on the legal issues when property buyers discover a damp problem shortly after moving in
Legal cartoon
© Merrily Harpur (harpur.org)
Question: We bought our house about five months ago and have discovered there is a really bad damp problem. It was not obvious at all to us when we bought the house. Do we have any comeback against the sellers?

Answer: You need to consider the information which you were given by the sellers when you purchased the property. Check the property information questionnaire included in the Home Information Pack (HIP), as there is a question relating to damp.

Also check the property information form, which your solicitor should have received from the seller's solicitor, as there is a question about damp-proofing and the availability of guarantees.

It is always wise to carry out a survey before exchange of contracts, unless you are buying a property in the course of construction. If you have a mortgage, your lender would have carried out a valuation, and most lenders, for an additional fee, will let their valuer carry out a homebuyer's survey at the same time.

Consider any survey report you obtained and if there was any mention of damp. If there was damp, your surveyor would probably have recommended a survey by a specialist damp-proofing expert.

There is a rule called caveat emptor which places on you, as buyer, the burden of discovering any physical defects which are not immediately apparent from inspection.

If the seller did not know about the damp and if you did not have a survey, or if you ignored any advice given by your surveyor, then you will not have any recourse at all against anyone.

What's your problem?


If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors www.ttuk.com.

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