In dispute with your neighbours or no building regulations for renovations? How to navigate the legal minefield before putting your house on the market
There are obvious stumbling blocks to selling a house.
A hole in the roof? Unhelpful. An avocado bathroom? Well, a recent survey confirmed that the distinctive green shaded suite could knock almost £5,000 from the value of a sale.
But more common pitfalls when selling often get ignored: unresolved legal matters.
Legal minefield: Unresolved legal matters such as abnormalities with your title and/or access to your property can be a major stumbling block to selling your property
Which is why it’s vital to anticipate problems before even putting your home on the market.
If, for example, you have fallen out with your neighbours and involved authorities such as the local planning department or the police, you must declare it through the lawyer handling your sale.
‘It can affect the value of the property, or its ability to be sold at all. You could even find yourself being sued,’ says Danielle Clements, a lawyer specialising in neighbour disputes and litigation at Gorvins Solicitors in Stockport, Greater Manchester.
The issue of access to a property can also be a silent assassin to any sale, according to James Britton, partner at Roger Coupe estate agents.
‘Ask your solicitor to check there are no abnormalities with your title and/or access to your property,’ says Britton.
One issue could be what’s known as irregular access — where a gap or verge exits between the roadway and the boundaries of the property and which has no registered owner.
As a seller, you should declare this hasn’t created any access problems.
No strings attached: Five-bedroom Delamere, five miles from Pershore and 12 from Worcester, was built in 2012 and its National House Builders Certificate (NHBC) lasts until 2022
Not having building regulations for extensions or renovations is an equally thorny issue.
Check to ensure you have the planning permission documents for any alterations, as well as the completion certificate from the council, which you should receive once works are finished.
‘We often find that the completion certificate has been lost or never received.
‘To rectify this, speak to your builder or contractor who can liaise with the council to issue or re-issue accordingly,’ Britton says.
‘This is all relatively easy to sort out, but if there are time pressures, this can cause unnecessary stress.’
Clear boundary: This immaculate four-bedroom home in Littleborough stands in a good sized plot, part bordered by a natural stone wall
Solar panels can sometimes be an issue with buyers, says John Ascroft, director of Home Truths estate agents in Lancashire.
A savvy buyer could well want to know whether access for maintenance is required by the company which installed them.
Or even ask for proof that the roof was assessed in the first place to carry the weight of the panels.
Watch out, too, for Japanese knotweed near your property, says Nick Karamanlis, a local Yopa estate agent.
If it’s discovered on or near the land being sold, buyers have been known to pull out of a sale.
This rapidly growing and invasive plant can smother gardens and even damage buildings, Tarmac and drains.
No chain: This five-bedroom family home near Brookmans Park is chain-free. Arranged over four floors, the entrance hall has high ceilings and tiled mosaic floor
There are specialist Japanese knotweed companies that issue guarantees and certificates, which lenders have started to recognise.
Another spoiler for a sale is if your property has a restrictive convenant — that is a clause in the deed or lease limiting what the owner can do with it, such as build an extension.
If your property is subject to one, it’s not the end of the world, but it can be a bother.
You can apply for consent from the person who enforced the convenant to have it removed, explains Clements.
‘Or you could take out indemnity insurance.’
This will give you cover should the covenant be breached at some point in the future.
Alternatively, you could take it to the Lands Tribunal or to court to apply to have the covenant discharged, but this could be a long and costly process.
‘Making your house presentable is a must-do step in the selling process, but ensuring all the legalities are in order are just as important,’ says Britton.