What is misrepresentation in conveyancing

Misrepresentation in conveyancing refers to providing false or misleading information during the process of buying or selling property. Conveyancing is the legal process of transferring property ownership from a seller to a buyer. Misrepresentation can occur at various stages of this process and can have legal consequences. Here are key points related to misrepresentation in conveyancing:

Types of Misrepresentation:

  • Fraudulent Misrepresentation: Deliberate and intentional presentation of false information with the intent to deceive the other party.
  • Negligent Misrepresentation: Providing inaccurate information without adequate care or due diligence, even if unintentional.
  • Innocent Misrepresentation: Unintentional provision of false information, where the party providing the information genuinely believed it to be true.

Common Examples:

  • Providing false information about the property’s condition or boundaries.
  • Misrepresenting the property’s planning permissions or building regulations compliance.
  • Concealing material defects or issues with the property.

Legal Consequences:

  • Misrepresentation can lead to legal consequences, including the possibility of the injured party seeking damages or rescission of the contract.
  • Rescission allows the innocent party to treat the contract as void from the beginning, as if it never existed.

Reliance and Causation:

The injured party must demonstrate that they relied on the false statement and that the misrepresentation caused them harm or financial loss.

Duty of Disclosure:

There is a general duty on sellers to disclose material information about the property. Failure to disclose relevant facts can be considered a form of misrepresentation.

Due Diligence:

Buyers are also expected to conduct their due diligence and not solely rely on information provided by the seller. However, sellers must still provide accurate information when asked.

Prevention and Protection:

Sellers can take measures to prevent misrepresentation claims by ensuring all information provided is accurate and complete.

Buyers can protect themselves by conducting property surveys, asking relevant questions, and seeking professional advice during the conveyancing process.

Bringing a claim for seller misrepresentation:

If you find yourself discovering issues with your recently purchased home that were not accurately disclosed by the seller despite being raised in inquiries, you might consider pursuing a claim for misrepresentation.

As a buyer initiating such a claim, you’ll need to provide evidence showing that the seller provided inaccurate responses to inquiries and demonstrate (potentially through witness statements or items left in the property) that the seller was aware of the issues before the property sale. Proving the seller’s prior knowledge can be challenging, but consulting with neighbors might offer valuable insights.

If you’re confident in having sufficient evidence to substantiate the misrepresentation, the first consideration is whether the survey or report conducted before exchanging contracts should have highlighted the identified issues. If the surveyor’s oversight is apparent, your claim might shift toward a case of negligence against the appointed surveyor.

However, if it’s deemed unreasonable to expect the surveyor to have discovered the problems, and the claim is directed at the seller, the next step involves engaging a valuation surveyor. This professional will assess whether the property’s value on the open market, with the now-known defects, differs from the price you paid. Your claim against the seller will then focus on the discrepancy in value. Convincing a court that, had you been aware of the defects, you would not have purchased the property at all can be a more challenging aspect of the legal process.

This article is intended for guidance only and does not constitute legal advice – 2024

Our team

Trainee Licensed Conveyancer

Caroline Polder
Caroline Polder