New extensive Seller's Information Form makes choice of conveyancer crucial

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The Law Society has now circulated an 18 page set of explanatory notes  to help explain the third edition of their own 16 page Property Information Form (TA6).

The new TA6 Form contains many more enquiries than the previous edition, and so sellers of property are now being asked to disclose more information to the buyer than ever. Like now, many years can go by until the buyer discovers loss, and they then claim compensation from you. More chances with a Form containing more enquiries than before.

So, explanatory notes are very much welcomed, as the accuracy of the seller's replies in the  Property Information Form is now even more crucial.

The Law Society's overall explanation of how to complete the new Form is that "If you are a seller you should read the Instructions to Sellers at the beginning of the Law Society Property Information Form (TA6).….You are not expected to have expert knowledge of legal or technical matters, or matters that occurred prior to your ownership of the property. If you do not know the answer to any question, you must say so.. ….If you later become aware of any information which would alter any replies you have given, you must inform your solicitor immediately. This is as important as giving the right answers in the first place."

What is most noteworthy are the Law Society's warnings that “If you are unsure of the meaning of any questions or answers, you should ask your solicitor” and further that “It is very important that the answers are accurate. If you give incorrect or incomplete information to the buyer (on the Property Information Form (TA6) in writing or in conversation, whether through your estate agent or solicitor or directly to the buyer), the buyer may be able to make a claim for compensation or refuse to complete the purchase.”

As a result, when choosing among conveyancing solicitors it is now crucial that you secure one of the very highest quality, one who will themselves be aware of the significance of each of the new questions in the Form, so as to properly advise and shield you from any answers which are too detailed, or simply – and legally – incorrect.

Scrimping on a cheap conveyancing service has always been risky, but now even more so.
 
However, what all conveyancing solicitors will be pleased to note is that the explanatory notes now helpfully provide the Law Society's view on certain issues which can crop up in a house sale, and which can sometimes lead to delay. According to the Law Society (italics are ours):

  • Production of planning and building control consents  - “The seller should provide copies of planning permissions, Building Regulations approvals and completion certificates.” Indeed, this new third edition TA6 Form, states at Section 4 "Note to seller: All relevant approvals and supporting paperwork referred to in section 4 of this form, such as listed building consents, planning permissions, Building Regulations consents and completion certificates should be provided.” No limitation to 20 years as stated in the Law Society's Conveyancing Protocol.
  • Listed Buildings - “Sellers and buyers in England can find out if a property is listed by searching the National Heritage List for England at http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/.” Hopefully no more enquiries from Buyers to ask for a copy of the Listing.
  • Tree Preservation Orders - “Sellers should supply copies of any tree preservation orders and local authority permissions for works, where relevant.”
  • Guarantees - “Buyers may wish to contact the company that gave the guarantee or warranty to establish whether that company is still trading and if so, whether the terms of the guarantee or warranty will apply to them.”
  • Electrical re-wiring/installation work - “In order to evidence compliance with requirements for electrical work carried out the seller should provide the Building Control Completion Certificate, the installer's Building Regulations Compliance Certificate or the BS7671 Electrical Safety Certificate.” As for electrical tests "The seller should also state the year the test was carried out and supply a copy of the test certificate.”
  • Gas central heating - “The seller should state the year that the heating system was last serviced and provide a copy of the inspection report.”

In addition, attempts have been made in the explanatory notes to clarify various questions in this third edition of the Form, in particular:

  • Question 1.2 – the word “irregular” has now been clarified.
  • Question 4.2 – no longer seems to excuse the seller from supply planning or building control consents if building works were not done.
  • Question 4.7 should no longer perpetuate the "please provide a copy of the Listed Building Consent" now with the stated websites which will enable buyer's conveyancers to self-help.
  • Question 4.8 now spells out the need to supply the actual Tree Preservation Order itself.
  • Question 6.1 now clarifies that the insurance is for the building, and the consequence of a “no” answer has been somewhat clarified.
  • Question 7.6 has welcome reference to the website where Buyers can obtain their own copy of the EPC. No more conveyancers asking for it....

However, it will be impossible to appease every conveyancer's eagle eyed critique of this new third edition of the Form, such as:

  • The notes on page 2 state ‘You should not expect the seller to have knowledge of, or give information about, matters prior to their ownership of the property’ but then question 1.3 immediately seeks it, as does 4.1, 5.1, 7.1, 7.4, 12.1 and 1.4 fatally misses the chance to finally ask for it.
  • Question 4.2(a) should have mentioned FENSA.
  • Questions 7.1 , 7.4 and 12.1 should have an optional ‘not known’.
  • Question 7 does not tackle ‘renovations of the thermal element’ (Google the phase where it will become clear).
  • Question 14.3 remains superfluous, as conveyancers already draft the same contract to sell free of financial charges and they will obtain.
  • Repayment statements upfront so as to give post-exchange Undertakings to repay mortgages.

But continued critique shows that there are some conveyancers who really do offer comprehensive and detailed information for their clients – as much to protect their client's enjoyment of the property as their chances of a smooth resale, which is often when defects and missing information come to light.