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Flood damage before buying

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  • Flood damage before buying

    We bought our house July 2007 and the day we moved in we could immediately smell that something was not quite right. It turned out that the house had flooded shortly before we moved in.

    It has taken a while to get accurate dates together but I have finally got proof that flooding occured twice before Exchange of Contracts (but after our survey had been done) and once after Exchange of Contracts.

    The Vendors have stated that the last flooding was very minor and did no damage to the house. I do not have any proof whether this is true or not. I do have photos of substantial flooding the first time it happened.

    The house is not in a flood zone (apparently 52m above sea level) but the flooding occured because of rainfall and poor drainage. We have spent tens of thousands putting new drainage systems in place so that we can get insured. We have also had to replace the kitchen due to damaged cabinets and had to re-plaster, redecorate and re do the electrics throughout. The total bill for works is well in excess of £70,000 but costs directly due to the flood damage amount to around £40,000. Damage is still coming to light as plaster is removed and corroded electrics are found.

    We have spent £1500 with a local solicitor but now it appears that we can do nothing as the damage was caused before exchange of contracts and it was down to us to check that the house was as it should be before we exchanged. This wasn't easy as we were moving 180 miles away (hindsight now says we should have done of course)

    Just before exchange of contracts my wife spoke to the vendor primarily about keys etc and asked the question about the weather as flooding from a river was on the news 10 miles from the house. She was told there had been no problems with the recent very heavy rainfall at the property.

    We have been told by our solicitor that our best chance is to make an insurance claim on the vendors policy that was in place at the time of the flooding. However this appears pretty unlikely to succeed.

    We have also found out from neighbours that when they asked the vendors what we thought about the flooding, the vendors told the neighbours that we had been made aware of the flooding and were not unduly bothered and were happy to proceed with the purchase. Obviously untrue!

    However, despite it all being obvious that we were misled and lied to it appears that due to the dates of the flooding in relation to the exchange of contracts, the vendors will get away with it, which is making me very angry to say the least!

    I just wanted a second opionion from anyone on here to see if this really was the case or if there could be a way we could take the vendors to court.

    many thanks.


  • #2
    Looks like we will have to cut our losses then.

    It makes me mad that these people can get away with not telling us that the house we were just about to buy had flooded a couple of weeks earlier - I cant believe that there is nothing we can do!


    • #3
      I would attempt to get the previous owners to pay for it, either them or their insurance.

      You are in an awkward situation. It is unfortunate that with property, we don't seem to get the right to give it back and get our money back if things are not as advertised.

      Tell the previous owners to get in touch with their insurance. If they fail to do within one month, tell them you will take them to court.

      Get your solicitor to help you with it.

      The vendors were obviously nervous of telling you the truth in case you pulled out of the purchase. It was wrong of them, but as you have no written word, it is your word against theirs. I guess the best you can hope for is that their insurance will pay up.
      Community spirited? http://www.AshfieldFOCUS.com


      • #4
        (Oh, I am not a lawyer or anything like that...)
        Community spirited? http://www.AshfieldFOCUS.com


        • #5
          Thanks for that reply.

          That does indeed appear to be our only option at the moment, if an insurance company entertains the claim is another matter but we shall try.


          • #6
            Hm...I'm not a lawyer, but a remember a few years back that if the condition of a property was misadvertised, and this resulted in costs to the new owners, then the previous owners would be liable for costs. Not sure on the specifics, but it basically gave the impression that new owners were protected against potential deception by previous owners.

            Personally I wouldn't be thinking about insurance payments, but instead talk to a specialist property solicitor, see if anything falls under current issues, with the suggestion of taking out a civil action against the previous owners. You may not be able to return a house after sale, but I'm very much under the impression that if it's not in the condition sold under, then there may be options to recourse.


            • #7
              Property Misdescriptions Act 1991

              .. but it's only an offence if the misdescription is made "is made in the course of an estate agency business or a property development business" - I'm not sure if this covers all aspects of all sales made THROUGH an agency, or if statements made by owners in the course of such a sale are exempt. If the agency selling the house made any statement that the house was unaffected by flood, you may have a claim.

              I do get the impression that if someone buys privately, the provisions of this act don't apply at all, and the buyer can't claim any protection under this act.


              • #8
                There is unlikely to be a claim under the Property Misdescriptions Act - I don't suppose the property particulars said "This property has never flooded and never will" or similar!

                There may be a claim for misrespresentation against the sellers, depending on what questions were asked of them, what their state of knowledge was at the time and how they answered.

                I suspect there is no value in an insurance claim by the sellers for the pre-exchange flooding: their insurers will say they have suffered no loss, so there is nothing to indemnify them against

                Once contracts are exchanged, the sellers are only under a duty to take reasonable care of the property - not to indemnify you against any damage, however caused - but if they had told you about the post-exchange of contracts flooding, you might have been entitled to refuse to complete or to insist on the sellers repairing any damage - if the Standard Conditions of Sale applied and were not amended to transfer the insurance risk to you on exchange of contracts.

                If the insurance risk did transfer to you on exchange, presumably you arranged insurance, and could claim for the post-exchange flood damage at least, but that seems to have been minimal, anyway

                I hope this helps clarify the issues, at least, even if it is not what you wanted to hear
                This is based on my experience as a conveyancing solicitor in England, but I do not accept liability for information I give in this forum


                • #9
                  Re: Flood damage before buying

                  There is a new development in my area & the land that the 5 new houses are being built on was flooded in July 2007 & June 2008. However, the area is not a flood zone but many property's have been devastated by floods in recent years. When prospective buyers do their searches nothing will be reported about the floods as it was just land when they occured.
                  What can be done lawfully to provide prospective buyers the facts about the floods in 2007 & 2008?


                  • #10
                    Re: Flood damage before buying

                    This post illustrates perfectly the need for all buyers always to TALK TO THE NEIGHBOURS when they are considering buying a property.
                    RICHARD WEBSTERwww.rwco.co.uk
                    As a conveyancing solicitor I want to be helpful (England/Wales only) but can't accept liability for this.