The complainants, Mr and Mrs J, bought a property in the knowledge that five months prior to making their offer the property had been flooded. The property was situated near the sea and a river. A year after the purchase, the property was flooded again and, according to Mr and Mrs J, was at risk to flooding on an additional three separate occasions. Mr and Mrs J alleged that the Agent withheld information and deceived them about the true nature of the risk of flooding.
According to the information provided by the seller, the only time the property had been flooded whilst in her ownership was five months before Mr and Mrs J’s offer was received; this was what was stated in the property information form that was completed as part of the conveyancing process and the Agent also passed on information about this incident to Mr and Mrs J. It was later discovered that the grounds of the property had been flooded 11 years previously and the seller had not disclosed this information. I was therefore satisfied that the Agent had no knowledge of this incident and should not have necessarily obtained that knowledge through their local experience. I was not able to come to a judgement on the seller’s actions but it seemed that Mr and Mrs J’s solicitors raised no concerns about the potential of flooding to the property even though they were aware of the flooding five months previously.
Although I had some sympathy for Mr and Mrs J, in the circumstances, I was not persuaded that the Agent had misdescribed the property or that they withheld vital information from them. I concluded that the Agent would have had local knowledge of the area the property was located in, but they would not necessarily have known the history of the particular property. Either way the Agent had informed Mr and Mrs J of the recent flooding.
As I have mentioned in my report, anyone buying or renting a house now, regardless of an agent’s obligations under CPRs, must carry with them an awareness of the potential for floods and I would expect diligence from both agents and consumers in this regard. This is a particular area where local knowledge, as local professionals, will need to be applied. If the owner of a house by a river advises that he has never been flooded then that could well be the situation but the agent should be ‘on notice’ that things may not be as they been have stated and make further enquiries.