Caveat Emptor 

'Caveat emptor' is a Latin word meaning ‘let the buyer beware’. This means that it is for the buyer to look out for themselves.

In the context of buying a property, this means that it is for the buyer to carry out due diligence into the property before completing the purchase.

This process of unearthing any potential legal issues that might affect the property forms the backbone of the purchase conveyancing process.

A caution to sellers

Caveat emptor has applied to the sale of property in England and Wales for hundreds of years. As a result many sellers understandably believe that caveat emptor is an absolute principle that releases them from the obligation to disclose anything negative about the property, unless asked.

However, recent legislation has fuzzy this somewhat. Now the seller, or the seller’s agents, must disclose any information that they may be aware of if it’s because compromise the value of the property.

Previously, under the principle of caveat emptor, this would not have to disclose anything about the property unless specifically asked by the seller, or sellers solicitor.

Since the legislation, the seller does not disclose any information which they know could reduce the value of the property then the buyer may be able to sue the seller.

The seller will not be held accountable for failing to disclose information if they were not aware of it.

In practice the conveyancing process remains largely unchanged. The conveyancing solicitor must assume that the seller is not in a position to reveal all possible negative aspects of the property.

It is critical that the seller completes all conveyancing forms provided to them as truthfully and comprehensively as possible.

Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher

Author:
Gaynor Haliday, Legal researcher