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HouseWorth
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  1. Blog
  2. How long are you liable after selling a house in the UK?
House selling tips
21 September 2023

How long are you liable after selling a house in the UK?

Kimberley Taylor
Writer & Researcher

Table of contents

  1. 1. How long are you liable after selling your house?
  2. 2. How to avoid liability after selling your house?
  3. 3. Mortgage obligations
  4. 4. What is the buyer's responsibility?
  5. 5. Types of liability
  6. 6. Who pays for repairs?
  7. 7. Capital Gains Tax
  8. 8. Summary: Stay honest or stay liable!

Picture this: it's completion day. You've finally got your property sold. The process is finished. Done. You can say goodbye to your old home. Right?

Well, not necessarily. A lot of sellers think once they've sold their property, that's the end of the selling process. From that point onwards, any problems with the property is the buyer's responsibility. But that's not always the case.

In fact, as a property seller, you may be liable for issues with the property for a good few years to come. In this article, we'll take you through the length of your liability period and how you can avoid being held liable after a sale has been completed.

For other common selling mistakes, take a look at our previous blog.

How long are you liable after selling your house?

The property sales process protects buyers from undisclosed damages or issues. The current owner is legally obligated to declare problems with the property, so buyers can claim damages if there's an undisclosed issue that existed when the contracts were exchanged.

The issues have to be genuine defects that have a negative impact on the property’s value, rather than an opinion from a potential buyer. This includes structural issues, faults in the plumbing or wiring systems, boundary disputes, easements and rights-of-way, as well as other issues regarding land ownership.

Under the Misrepresentation Act 1967, a seller's post sale liability will vary depending on the circumstances. A buyer will usually have up to six years to bring a claim against you, but in some situations, it could be three years from when the buyer notices a problem with the house. Generally, the closer you are to the completion date, the less likely a buyer would be able to prove they'd only just found an issue.

The conveyancing process will help to disclose any important information that could affect the value of the property. The TA6 property information form should give potential buyers an accurate description of the property's condition, which will help them make an informed decision about whether or not they want to buy the property.

How to avoid liability after selling your house?

The best way to avoid being liable after selling a house is being upfront and honest about existing problems with your potential buyers and offer up as much information as possible in the TA6 property information form. If you hide them, you could face a lot of legal disputes, and even serious fines if you're seen to be deliberately misleading about your property.

Common issues during the sale process that lead to misrepresentation claims include structural problems, damp, disputes with neighbouring properties, planning permission applications in the area, or Japanese Knotweed in the garden.

Indemnity insurance

Another way to protect yourself from being liable after selling if applying for indemnity insurance. If you're worried about selling your house due to any known or unknown defects, or don't have the relevant documentation to prove work was carried out to solve these issues, you can use this route. To find out more about how indemnity insurance works, check out one of our previous blogs.

Selling a house with a cash buyer

Another way to protect yourself from liability is by selling your house with a cash buyer. They often aren't as concerned about structural issues or other problems with the property's condition because they see it as an investment property, rather than a residential property to live in themselves.

"As is" sales

Some property transactions involve the property being sold 'as is', which means the buyer is made aware of the issues, but the seller declares they don't intend to repair any of them. This means the buyer will knowingly buy the property knowing its current condition. With an 'as is' sale, however, the seller still needs to disclose all of the problems.

Mortgage obligations

During the sales process, the seller will often pay off the remaining debt from their mortgage agreement using the sale proceeds. However, if the mortgage isn't paid off from the proceeds and you still owe money, it's still the seller's responsibility to pay for the mortgage.

In some cases, if your home is sold for less than the remaining balance of your mortgage loan, your mortgage lender might pursue a deficiency judgement against you for the difference.

Click here to read more about selling your home with an outstanding mortgage.

What is the buyer's responsibility?

When you're buying a new property, you're expected to do your due diligence. It's always advisable to get a home inspection or house survey, which will uncover most issues. If problems are uncovered during the conveyancing process, the buyer can often negotiate with the seller for a reduced price, or to pay for repairs.

If the new homeowner discovers a defect after the sale that was knowingly hidden by the seller, they may be able to seek legal recourse. But if the new owner missed the opportunity to discover the issue during their due diligence, they might not be able to take any legal action, especially if they opted out of a home inspection before they purchased the property.

Check out some key questions you should ask before buying a property.

Types of liability

People can be held liable after selling a house in the UK for a number of different issues, such as:

Misrepresentation

Fraudulent Misrepresentation: This is when the seller knowingly gives false information or misleading statements about the property's condition that induces the buyer to enter into the contract. The seller may know they are lying, or they may not care whether the information is true or false. The buyer has to prove that the seller acted fraudulently.

Negligent Misrepresentation: This is when the seller makes statements about the property carelessly or not knowing whether or not it's true.

Innocent Misrepresentation: This means the seller makes a false statement but they had reasonable grounds to believe it was true.

Misdescription

Misdescription refers to an inaccurate property description such as physical characteristics, usage rights, boundaries and size.

it's important to remember in most cases, minor errors or discrepancies won't allow the buyer to take legal action. The misdescription has to significantly affect the value of the property.

Defects and Repairs

Structural defects refer to the integrity of the building, from its foundations to roofing to walls. Serious issues with the structure of a property could put the new homeowner's safety at risk and repairs could be very expensive.

Functional defects don't impact the structure, but could impact the use of the property, such as electrical wiring or plumbing infrastructure. Safety can also be an issue in these instances.

Cosmetic defects refer to the aesthetics of a property like minor wall cracks, scuffed floors or peeling paint. They don't affect the safety or general function of the property, but they make it less appealing from a visual standpoint.

Take a look at what you should and shouldn’t fix before you sell a house.

Who pays for repairs?

After the property inspection, the buyer and seller can negotiate who is responsible for paying the necessary repairs. For example, the seller might agree to fix the issue, or they might lower the value, or the buyer may agree to handle the repair themselves.

As we mentioned before, under consumer protection, buyers can request for repairs up to six years from the date of completion, but the sellers are only liable for problems that existed at the time of sale. If damage has been caused after the sale through wear and tear or by a different person, they can't be held liable.

Once the sale is complete, the buyer is then responsible for any problems or repairs of the property (unless there has been misrepresentation).

It's also important to note the new owner can't make a claim against you without any proof. They have to submit sufficient evidence before you're made to pay any damages. It's really important to know the legal obligations before, during and after selling property in the UK so you can avoid legal problems further down the line. If you have any concerns, it's always better to seek legal advice so you know where you stand.

Capital Gains Tax

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) refers to a tax on the profit you make when you sell an asset that's gone up in value. So selling a house falls under this bracket. If you sell a house for more than you paid for it, you gain the difference in profit.

Not all property sales result in capital gains tax liability. For example, if you're selling your only residential property, you might not have to pay any CGT due to private residence relief. This is known as primary residence exemption. CGT is more common when you sell a second home, rental property or somewhere you've never lived in.

To calculate your capital gain, minus the purchase price from the selling price, subtract any buying and selling costs (including estate agent fees or solicitors fees) then deduct the cost of home improvements. The final figure is the profit you've made.

There's also the annual tax-free allowance, commonly referred to as the Annual Exempt Amount. This is the maximum profit you can gain across all your assets before you have to pay CGT for that tax year.

Summary: Stay honest or stay liable!

When it comes to selling a house in the UK, honesty really is the best policy. You can be liable after selling your property for up to six years, and could even face serious penalties if you're found to be misleading or untruthful during the sale.

Make sure to cover all the bases of your property sale, including your mortgage agreement, and any other repairs or financial obligations the buyer could claim against you. And most importantly, when it comes to detailing any issues with your property, TELL THE TRUTH!

If you're thinking about putting your property on the market, finding the right estate agent is really important. Our Estate Agent Comparison Tool lets you compare estate agents based on your bespoke property needs. Check it out today!

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