An important case about the disclosure of matters affecting land on a sale
21st February 2013

The above landmark case was William Sindall Plc -v- Cambridgeshire County Council [1993]. This was a conveyancing-related case where land was bought for developmental purposes but the buyer later found a drainage pipe which very much limited the potential of the land. The pipe’s existence had not been disclosed on the sale, because it was not known to the seller. It was held that under the National Conditions of Sale, it is the purchaser who takes the risk of there being easements unknown to the seller.

The court clarified that a seller was not liable for damages for misrepresentation if he had taken reasonable steps to make known to the purchaser what he himself knew. Clause 14 of the Conditions attached to the Agreement for sale in question was found not to be an exclusion clause, but rather qualified the sellers obligations. It did not therefore fall to be tested for reasonableness. In using the phrase ‘not so far as the vendor is aware’ in replies to preliminary enquiries the court determined that such a statement was akin to a representation that the seller’s solicitor and the seller had each made appropriate enquiries to support the statement. The court concluded: ‘knowledge may go beyond what is in somebody’s head, that it requires a solicitor to read his file and to read it properly and to make . . . reasonable and prudent investigation of the grounds upon which the belief is based . . .’

We at PLS go the extra mile in obtaining our clients’ replies to purchasers’ solicitors’ enquiries that are as detailed and accurate as possible on all of our client’s sales. All property solicitors are thoroughly up to speed with clients’ replies given so that there can be no scope for any accusations of misrepresentation in the years following completion should something crop up in the following years that is adverse to the purchaser’s interest but that was not known about by the seller at the point of sale. This is just one more example of how we achieve an excellent and dependable service for all of our clients’ conveyancing needs.

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