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Aston Lawyer
Aston Lawyer, Solicitor
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 10459
Experience:  LLB(HONS) 23 years of experience in dealing with Conveyancing and Property Law
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I sold a flat in a block following a recent conversion project

Customer Question

I sold a flat in a block following a recent conversion project and it turns out to have serious damp issues that we didn't know about at the time. A survey was done by the buyer and we, as sellers, had a damp expert come in at their request, but he put the problem down to condensation. Now months on, as freeholder, we're trying to resolve the damp issues and the owner wants to sue us, as the sellers, saying the work wasn't done correctly. Do they have a case?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  Aston Lawyer replied 3 years ago.
Hello and thanks for using Just Answer.

I am Al and am happy to assist you with your enquiry.

I am not 100% clear- was any damp proofing work actually carried out or did the Buyer just rely on your report which said it was only condensation?

As a new conversion, did you provide the Buyer with any warranty for the property/a professional Consultant's Certificate?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards
AL

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi,


The damp expert's report pinpointed 2 small areas that needed work and we paid for that work to be done and the guarantee was passed to the buyer. They were happy with this at the time.


There was no warranty for the property. We had the conversion signed off by the building control inspector and this certificate was shared with the buyer. The builder wrote that he would rectify snagging within a fixed period of completion, but this period has expired and in any case the builder has closed his business, and on discussing it with him, he would not term rectifying problems with new work that was not part of the original specification "snagging".


No-one from the architect to the building inspector to the buyer's surveyor suggested the necessity of tanking the room that is now seriously affected.


Please let me know if any further info would help clarify the situation.


Thanks

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Just to be clear - the areas pinpointed in the report and the work done to rectify those issues was not in the room now seriously affected. Completely separate problem.


Thanks

Expert:  Aston Lawyer replied 3 years ago.

Hi,

Thanks for your reply.

As you provided no warranty, and you complied with the Building Regs, you have no further liability to the Buyer.
With any house Purchase, the Buyer takes the property in its existing condition and the principle "caveat emptor" applies. Accordingly, the Buyer has to rely on their own Survey before deciding to proceed or not.

As it appears the damp was not evident at the time of the conversion and the work you had carried out was in a different area of the property, I feel some sympathy with your Buyer but at the end of the day, you certainly are not liable for any remedial work. If the Buyer did instruct their own Surveyor to carry out a report before purchasing, then their only recourse is to sue their Surveyor for negligence, if indeed they can prove that this issue should have been spotted by him.

I hope this assists and sets out the legal position to you.

Kind Regards
AL
Expert:  Aston Lawyer replied 3 years ago.

Hi there,

Can I assist you any further?

Kind Regards
AL
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi,


Thank for this. It's what I believed, but wanted to be sure. It seems their solicitor believes they have a case but I'm not sure what it's based on exactly. Is it possible the builder's letter of guarantee could be held up as a warrantee? If so, can we be held liable if he fails to deliver on it, as it was provided by us as part of the paperwork accompanying the sale?


Thank you

Expert:  Aston Lawyer replied 3 years ago.

Hi,

They may be able to rely on the Builder's letter of guarantee, depending on what items were covered in the letter. This would be seen as some form of warranty. If you could let me know what the letter said I can expand.

Kind Regards

Al

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Just to check, is this private or visible on the website?


 

Expert:  Aston Lawyer replied 3 years ago.

Hi,

Fellow experts can read any posts made by customers.

The general public can access completed Answers if they were to Google and happened to come across this post.

If you feel it is not wise to divulge all the information contained in the letter, I can try and expand a bit now-

If your Builder's letter states that the property has been built in accordance with Building Regulations and any planning permission, you have nothing to worry about.

If and only if it specifically mentions that the property is free of damp or some sort of warranty is given concerning damp, then of course the Buyer could rely on this statement.

Not sure if this helps.

Kind Regards

AL

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi,


Thank you. It doesn't specifically mention damp or any guarantee as to compliance with any standard, building regs or otherwise. The main part they may look to rely on is the builder's line: "I will give a full guarantee that up to 1 month after the sale of the properties there will be an honourable correction of any faults to workmanship or defective materials".


But at no point in the conveyancing was there any mention of tanking or damp proofing so if it wasn't part of the original specification and therefore hasn't been done but has been signed off, it can't be sign to be defective workmanship or materials, right?


The letter is from his company in any case, not from us as individuals.


Thanks

Expert:  Aston Lawyer replied 3 years ago.

Hi,

Thanks.

You are correct- as the Builder is only guaranteeing the work he has actually carried out, as opposed to an unknown defect, the Sellers can't rely on his statement.

I hope this helps.

Kind Regards

AL

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

It does help a lot thank you.


Silly question perhaps, but is this fairly black and white in terms of how it would be perceived by any legal professional or is there an element of grey? e.g. sympathy for the buyer's situation, the fact I have ongoing involvement as freeholder of the block, "dodgy developers" taking advantage of first time buyers, etc etc?


(For the record, if we'd known there was damp it would have been a small job at the time to sort it!)

Expert:  Aston Lawyer replied 3 years ago.

Hi,

It is harsh on a Buyer, but it comes down to the old chestnut- "Let the Buyer beware" caveat emptor principle, and the Buyers Solicitors will be telling their clients as much.

It is therefore black and white.

Kind Regards

AL

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

That's very reassuring to hear. Thank you for your help.

Expert:  Aston Lawyer replied 3 years ago.

Thanks.

All the best.

Kind Regards

AL

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Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Hi,


I have a follow up question. Contrary to what they told me initially, the managing agent now says the service charge can't be used to repair faulty workmanship. This leaves the options of me paying for the work as a good will gesture or nobody paying for the work as the new owner will refuse. Is the agent right?


Thanks

Expert:  Aston Lawyer replied 3 years ago.

Hi again,

Thanks for getting back in touch.

To enable me to answer your new question, I will need you to post it as a new Question, if that is ok.

Thanks

AL

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

ok, does that mean I have to pay again?

Expert:  Aston Lawyer replied 3 years ago.

Hi,

Yes it does I'm afraid.

Kind Regards

AL

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