When buying a property, the principle of caveat emptor – a Latin term – applies which simply means ‘let the buyer beware’. 

In straightforward terms, the basis of caveat emptor that applies to a property purchase serves as a caution to buyers that they will have no recourse with the seller if the property does not meet their expectations.

Buyer’s responsibility

When buying a house, the responsibility is with the buyer to inspect the property, services, appliances, fixtures and fittings as thoroughly as possible. This should include not just a visual inspection, but functional tests and checks of the services and any appliances.

Before completion, check that the boiler and heating system is working as it should – does the heating work in all rooms, does the boiler provide hot water, ask the vendor when was the boiler last serviced – if this was not within the last 2-3 years it is entirely reasonable to ask the vendor that the boiler be serviced prior to exchange of contracts.

However, bear in mind that if the vendor has the work undertaken, you need to make sure that any warranty provided can be passed to you.  We see all too often a situation where a boiler for example is serviced prior to exchange, but then fails shortly after completion.  If the vendor commissioned the service, do you have any come back on the engineer who carried out the work?

We also highly recommend that you commission a survey of the property prior to exchange (at least a home buyer survey), and if it raises any concerns send it to your conveyancer to raise with the vendor.  The valuation your mortgage company carries out to assess your mortgage application, if they even do one, isn’t a survey, and you cannot rely on its contents.  It will be done just for the mortgage company, although out of courtesy they may send you a copy just for information. 

Check the electrics

Depending on the age and condition of the property it may also be worth having an inspection of the electrical wiring, and associated light fittings and sockets to ensure everything operates and functions as it should. 

Caveat emptor generally applies unless there is a specific warranty or guarantee on a specific item or appliance, such a manufacturer’s warranty on a domestic appliance. 

Try before you buy

Any tests, services and inspections must be done prior to completion. Once ownership of the property has been transferred, responsibility for the property and its appliances, fixtures and fittings is with the new owner.

If you have any specific concerns, please raise them with your conveyancer so that they ask the questions before the problem is effectively yours.  Once you’ve exchanged contracts, it’s too late to fix any issues, and the vendor is completely within their rights to not even respond to any further requests.

In summary, test and try before you buy. 

For more information or advice on the topics above, please don’t hesitate to contact us