Skeletons in the cupboard

Recently, the Mail Online had a piece about disclosing skeletons in the property closet and what you are obliged to reveal. It mentioned the demise of Home Information Packs (HIPs) and inferred that somehow they added to the information that had been available in the past.

Not so, the standard HIP available for a property was as circumvented and poorly informed as it was possible to make it. One person’s charming original feature can be another person’s nightmare – do you reveal the well that is in your garden or even in your scullery? A friend of mine has one in her entrance hall, covered with an enormously thick glass cover and lit from below as a feature people still step round it rather than over it!

Deeds of cottages I have both bought and sold for clients in the last three months had rights in favour of them, or over them, for access to the well as so many terraced cottages shared such supplies. In both Dorset and Somerset there are many places with private water supplies, reservoirs and wells because of the geology. Few will worry about a well if they know it is there and if they do worry, and find it a reason not to proceed, what would they have said when they found it after the purchase had gone through? How far would the matter have gone before the entries in the Deeds came to light and they withdrew?

Honesty is always the best policy (see our blog on Caveat Emptor) and if you know of something, you cannot be faulted for putting it down. If the Property Information Form doesn’t have a box for the fact you have bats in the attic (literally) then don’t think that lets you off the hook.

That said, there is such a thing as hearsay so, going back to skeletons, if it is just a case of the old villager who tells you your predecessor buried all her dead dogs and cats in the garden, rely on your own experience…. I was told that exact thing 30 years ago when I bought my house and all that has ever come to light are the relics from a roast leg of mutton!

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