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Information Comes to Light After Buying House

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  • Information Comes to Light After Buying House

    When I bought my house in mid December I was told in writing by the vendor's solicitor that the deeds did not exist. As there were some issues I was concerned about, the vendor completed a statutory declaration supported by various documents. As the mortgage company were about to repossess the house, there wasn't time to get the declaration signed and witnessed before exchange, so I made the decision to go ahead on receiving an e-mailed PDF file of the unsigned document.

    At the beginning of March, I finally received the signed and witnessed paper version of the statutory declaration, and was shocked to find it was different to the one I had agreed to. The wording of one paragraph of the statement had been changed, although I don't think it made a material difference.

    More importantly, the final version included a copy of a conveyance when the house was sold to the owner before last. This had been sent to the vendor by the Land Registry last summer, so he knew it existed when we were negotiating, and means his admission that the deeds don't exist wasn't completely accurate.

    This conveyance clearly shows a fencing covenant that I had not been made aware of. If I had known about it, it would have lead to me finding out information that would have made me pull out of the purchase. My solicitor was also unaware of this covenant. It's not shown on the title document downloaded from the Land Registry. I did phone the LR before purchase, but they wouldn't talk to me as I wasn't the owner.

    The PDF file that was e-mailed to me was in two parts, and the missing document would have been at the end of one file, or the beginning of the other, so it might be a careless mistake that it was omitted. The e-mail was sent by the vendor's solicitor to me, my solicitor and the estate agent.

    This has caused me a big problem, as I now own a house that I wouldn't have bought if the vendor and/or his solicitor had fully disclosed the facts.

    What, if anything, can I do about it?

  • #2
    Re: Information Comes to Light After Buying House

    From what you say, there was a misrepresentation by the seller, for which you would be entitled to claim compensation, though I'm not sure that in fact you have suffered any loss. Though you say you would have pulled out of the purchase if you had known of the existence of the conveyance, the only new information it seems to have contained is the fencing covenant, as it seems the title to the property was already mentioned.

    Even if the fencing covenant imposed on the then owner of the property an obligation to fence a particular boundary, it is unlikely that that obligation passes to you - depending on the exact wording of the covenant - as positive covenantsd (unlike restrictive ones) do not "run with the land": they do not bind subsequent owners unless they individually covent to comply

    Unless I have misunderstood the position, I really cannot see that you have suffered any loss
    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

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    • #3
      Re: Information Comes to Light After Buying House

      If you're unhappy with your solicitor, you could contact the Solicitors Regulation Authority - they can advise on what to do if you would like to make a complaint.

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      • #4
        Re: Information Comes to Light After Buying House

        TomM123: I'm not sure where you get the idea that johnandc harlie are unhappy with their solicitor - it is the seller they are unhappy with, surely?
        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

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        • #5
          Re: Information Comes to Light After Buying House

          Sorry, I could have phrased that more clearly. If you think any solicitor - yours or the seller's - has acted unprofessionally, you can contact the SRA. Regardless of whether or not any loss has been suffered, there could have been a breach of the professional conduct rules if there was misrep / inadequate disclosure etc.

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          • #6
            Re: Information Comes to Light After Buying House

            From the OP, it sounds as though the seller, not his/her solicitor, who failed to disclose - the solicitor can only act on what information his/her client provides, and would not have been acting unprofessionally as a result
            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

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            • #7
              Re: Information Comes to Light After Buying House

              Sorry I haven't replied sooner. Taking on solicitors isn't my first option, and I've been trying to solve the problem a different way, but it's taking a long time, and so far isn't working.

              The fencing covenant itself isn't important, but if I had known about it, I would have asked for more information, and that would have lead to me finding out that I don't own part of the land I thought I was buying. The owner of this land is responsible for fencing it, but there is no trace of an existing fence. In fact there is absolutely no physical sign that it isn't a part of my land. The land was unregistered, but all the evidence I was given prior to purchase pointed to me almost certainly being the owner. This land is required as part of my planned use of the site, and without it I may have to sell. It is also costing me a lot in lost income that I planned to make from the site.

              A letter from the Land Registry that accompanied the missing document was included in the original statutory declaration, but it wasn't obvious from that letter that the missing document was something my solicitor and I weren't aware of, so the vendors solicitor surely must have seen it. I have recently been told by a neighbour that he told the vendor who owned the land. It seems to me that the vendor knew who owned the land, although he was unwell and stressed, and was probably in denial about it, and his solicitor had the document, and omitted it in error.

              I imagine that taking action against the vendor and/or his solicitor could be difficult and expensive, but I'm looking at all my options at the moment, so I can decide what to do.

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