Thorp vs Abbot

A recent legal case serves as a timely reminder that simple searches are not sufficient when buying a property. Large scale housing developments, which have been the subject of a few stories over the past few months are very unlikely to be identified in the suite of mandatory searches, such as the CON29 Local Authority search, and may only be picked up by specialist companies such as Groundsure which provides in-depth reports leaving no stone unturned.

In any property transaction it is heavily advised the purchaser employs ‘caveat emptor’ – buyer beware, as all may not be as it seems when viewing a property over a number of weeks. With a housing shortage as great as the UK’s, the Government and developers are under pressure to build more and more, and properties can be seen popping up left, right and centre. However, this may be at times when the future purchasers have already made an offer, as has been seen in the recent case of Thorp and another v Abbots. In 2010 the Abbots sold their home to the Thorps for £625,000. A Sellers Property Information Form (SPIF) was completed, which didn’t reveal anything untoward. However, after the purchase the Thorps were made aware of proposals for large scale developments in the area, proposals which dated back to before they purchased the property and it was still in the Abbotts’ ownership. Although the proposals were not set in stone, the Abbots (the sellers) attended meetings, received a public notice advising of the developments and even signed a petition against the development yet they did not disclose this information on the SPIF, when asked 1. “Has the seller either sent or received communications or notices which in any way affect the property (for example from or to neighbours, the council, or a government department)” and 2. “Has the seller had any negotiations or discussions with any neighbour or any local authority affecting the property in any way? If yes, please give details” - probably to ensure their property was sold.

The Thorps took the Abbots to court, however the High Court was found to be in favour of the defendant and the case was dismissed. The lesson to take away from this is to not always rely on the sellers to disclose all information and conduct your own independent research ahead of purchase.

Planning searches are not always the easiest to navigate, especially in large urban areas where there is a wealth of information. The new look Groundsure Planning report with an extended search radius allows for the easy identification of developments by summarising the number of house extensions, small and large projects on the front page.