Caveat Venditor!

Anybody selling their house will be asked by their solicitor to complete a ‘Property Information Form’.  We see a good number of these a year;  the care taken by vendors in completing these varies from the meticulous (well researched and backed up by supporting documents) to the downright slapdash…

Well a recent case might make the latter sit up a bit.  In answering question 7.8 of the form ‘Is the property affected by Japanese Knotweed (an invasive non-native plant that can cause damage to property if left untreated) when selling his £700,000 house in Raynes Park, London in 201 , Mr Jeremy Henderson, an accountant, ticked the box ‘No’.   However, shortly after moving into his new home, furniture designer Jonathan Downing, 30, found a patch of knotweed growing behind the shed in his garden and sued Mr Henderson for misrepresentation.

Mr Henderson argued he ‘reasonably believed’ he was telling the truth when he answered the question but, during a long-running legal dispute between the two men, Mr Denning’s barrister told the court: ‘The defendant could have ticked “Yes”, “Not Known” or “No” – by ticking “No”, the defendant chose to positively assert there was no knotweed at the property and thereby made a misrepresentation.’

Judge Jan Luba, sitting at Central London County Court, eventually ruled in Mr Downing’s favour and awarded costs and damages against Henderson totalling more than £200,000 (on top of which his own costs were estimated at almost £100,000).

A very expensive tick indeed…

PS  When it comes to owners filling in their Property Information Forms, we are well accustomed to the temptation for them to be economic with the truth when answering question 4 (requiring details of any alterations that require planning, building control or Listed Building consent) – our collection of over 17,000 historic brochures (going back over the past 25 years) frequently enables  us to spot alterations by comparing the ‘then and now’ floorplans!