Following their withdrawal from the transaction, Mr and Mrs A (the Potential Buyers) complained that the Agent had not divulged the full details of a local farmer’s tenancy claim for occupancy of all of the land attached to the property. Mr and Mrs A said the sales particulars had not included any reference to the dispute, yet the Agent had been aware of the problem six months before they began marketing the property as the farmer’s representative had written to the Agent setting out the claim. The Potential Buyers also asserted that the Agent had failed to divulge the extent of the land that the farmer was
claiming a tenancy on when they asked the Agent a direct question during the first viewing. The Agent acknowledged that they had received the letter, but said that, as it was unclear whether the farmer had any valid claim on the land, they did not include any details in the sales particulars.
My examination of the letter found that, as the dispute had not been resolved by the point the Agent was instructed to market the property, they were not required to make reference to the claim in the sales particulars. However, the Agent’s correspondence recorded that they had divulged the existence of the dispute to Mr and Mrs A during the viewing, but had not confirmed the extent of the land being claimed by the farmer, choosing instead to offer their observation that they had only seen cows in two of the fields in question. It also became apparent that the Potential Buyers did not find out the full extent of the claim until they approached the farmer directly, previous to which they had commissioned a survey
and instructed solicitors.
As the Agent was previously aware of the full extent of the farmer’s claim, I was critical of them for not divulging this information to Mr and Mrs A during the initial viewing. It was also clear that the Potential Buyers withdrew from the transaction as soon as this information became known to them. I was therefore persuaded that, had the Agent told them that the farmer was claiming a tenancy on all of the land attached to the property during the initial viewing, Mr and Mrs A would not have proceeded with the transaction. However, I also considered that the Potential Buyers held a degree of responsibility for
the situation arising as they had proceeded knowing that the farmer was utilising some of the land without first satisfying themselves that the property (and all of the land) suited their purposes. Overall, I made an award of £1,102.17, which included 70% of Mr and Mrs A’s survey and legal costs and an element relating to distress, aggravation and inconvenience.
Information which is known by the agent which is of direct relevance to the buyer’s decision, and which they are asked a direct question about, is a specified matter under the Property Misdescription Act. Agents are required, both by the law and the Code of Practice, to disclose the extent of their knowledge. Even if an agent is not asked a direct question, situations may arise where their knowledge will be directly relevant to the buyer’s decision.