Worthingtons Solicitors

The cautionary tale of Caveat Emptor

Whether it’s wanting more space to work from home, downgrading as the kids have flown the nest or simply getting on that property ladder – the property market in Northern Ireland is still buoyant and thriving.

If you are someone who is thinking of purchasing a property then the general principle is ‘Caveat Emptor’ which, translated from Latin simply means ‘let the buyer beware’.

The Vendor has no duty of disclosure regarding any defects that are either patent (reasonably discoverable from an investigation of the property) or latent (not reasonably discoverable).  There are of course a few exceptions to latent defects such as where the Vendor knows something that would interfere with the enjoyment of the premises or where the Vendor is aware of defects in legal ownership.  The Vendor also cannot provide any information that is untrue or misleading which induces the purchaser to buy.  It is important to note that these exceptions have very high thresholds and usually you will have no right of recourse against the seller of the property.  As a purchaser you are fixed with constructive notice of matters which you would have discovered if you had made reasonable enquiries. 

So what does this mean?  As a purchaser you take the property as it stands.  The purchase of a property affords no consumer protection whatsoever and there are no warranties or guarantees regarding its condition.  Should any problems arise in the future regarding dry rot, damp, wet rot, woodworm, central heating malfunction or other structural or repair requirements these will be your responsibility in their entirety.  

We recommend that you have personally inspected the property prior to purchase.  Even at this early stage don’t be afraid to raise any issues that you may have seen which you believe may require further enquiry i.e., new extension, broken windows, rotten floorboards or no running water.

Following personal inspection, we at Worthingtons Solicitors always recommend that a Home Buyers Survey is carried out.  A full survey can detail any works required to the property which can be rectified prior to completion or can provide an estimate of costs for repairs.  Although the cost of the survey must be borne by the Purchaser it will certainly help avoid any nasty (and potentially costly) surprises after completion.  Purchasing a property is one of the largest financial transactions you will make in your life – make sure you know what you are buying!

In summary if you are thinking about buying a property, make sure you:

  • Personally and thoroughly inspect the property
  • Obtain a home buyers survey and follow up any issues found in the report
  • Raise any queries and issues you have found no matter how small with your solicitor
  • Use an experienced solicitor to raise the necessary enquiries with legal title

Alexandra Mawhinney is a solicitor in the Property Department. If you have any queries, or require assistance with purchasing a property, she can be contacted on 028 9181 1538 or [email protected]

For expert legal advice

Call 028 9043 4015 or Contact us