Great Enquiries Questions: for Buying a Property
When you purchase a property you will use a conveyancing solicitor to handle the legal details. Part of their ‘due diligence’ will involve them sending questions to the seller of the Property. These questions cover many things which may have happened to the property in the past (like damage, noise disturbance or flooding) and try to ascertain if future problems could arise (for example: from planned works to your property or neighbouring buildings, new roads or railway lines and so on).
Most Solicitors are very competent and ask the right questions. But wait… the solicitor doesn’t actually visit the property themselves and so often ask a ‘generic’ set of questions. Well what if there is something unique to the property you want to buy which the solicitor doesn’t ask about? Well anything major that could impact your joyful experience of living in the property is usually required to be brought to your attention, by law. However you don’t want to undergo a legal battle after you have taken possession of the property and found something wrong that you could have asked about.
Being the helpful, friendly website that we are, we have typed out below as many different and useful enquiries questions that we can think of. Many of these were used by us in our own property purchases or asked of us when we were selling property. Some of these questions have been thought up by West End lawyers that charge hundreds of pounds an hour for their advice, so they could well go well beyond what your standard conveyancing solicitor would normally ask.
Here is our advice: when buying a property, ask to see the questionnaire that will be sent to the Seller (ask your conveyancing solicitor for this). Next, look through the questions we show below and if one of these questions isn’t asked in your questionnaire and you think it may be useful (i.e. apply to your property), have your solicitor send the extra questions to the Seller to seek their answers.
You can ask the seller anything you want – really! On the one hand you want to be sensible and not antagonise them by asking “Which shade of Dulux paint was used for the garage door”, on the other hand you want to protect your purchase and ensure you have the full details, which a solicitor that hasn’t seen the property may not think of, such as “How has property ever suffered from an infestation of vermin” which brings up some surprising answers in Central London basement flats! Remember that a seller may tell you ‘all is fine’ on a viewing, yet unless you have it in writing at the time of purchase, gaining recourse if they lied to you can be difficult, expensive or unattainable.
Here is the list. We’ve tried to be as exhaustive as possible, yet you Must use your solicitors questions and only add any below as extras.
Q. When was the property last rewired?
a) Confirm that the wiring complies with the local statutory undertakings requirements.
Q. Has the property ever suffered from:
a) dry rot
b) damp rot
d) timber infestation
If so, please supply details together with copies of any guarantees in respect of remedial works carried out.
Q. Has the owner or freeholder ever been refused buildings insurance cover for any reason?
If Yes, provide details:
Has the owner been made aware that the property carries additional buildings insurance premium due to:
a) flooding or proximity to water (reservoir, flood plane, stream, river, adverse camber and steep road!)
c) other? Provide details
Q. Has the Vendor had any cause to carry out repairs to the roof of the premises in the last four years? If so, please supply details.
Q. Have there been any claims on the insurance of the property in the last four years? If so, please supply details.
Q. Please supply details of any notices received with regard to the property from any source whatsoever (this should include Council notices, for example for neighbouring planning applications, or public works [e.g. Cross Rail] or noise abatement orders etc..)
Q. Have you ever had cause to register complaint with the council for any matter [including noise, building works etc…]
Q. How much is actually paid by way of water rates and council tax on the premises?
Q. List the following for the past 5 years:
a) Service charge (include adjustment charges made after the year end and provide detail if these are greater than 10% of the service charge)
b) Ground rent
c) Sinking fund
d) One off repair or refurb contributions
Are you aware of any pending changes in any of the above?
Please list all legally known changes which may occur in the future to the above items (e.g. Ground rent increase each 25 years)
Can you confirm that no discussions have taken place to changes in the above? If they have, list the ‘general theme’ and details.
Q. Are there any disputes with any neighbouring owners or occupiers over any matters specifically relating to the property?
Have there been previous disputes which are now settled?
Q. Please supply details of any additions or alterations carried out to the property either during the Vendor’s period or ownership or during the last four years, whichever is the longer with or without planning permission
Q. Has planning permission ever been sought? List details for accepted and rejected plans
Q. When the Vendor purchased the property were any indemnities taken out to cover work done by the previous owner?
Q. Has the Vendor applied for any local authority grants with respect to the property if so, supply details.
Q. Confirm the telephone will not be disconnected without prior reference to the Purchaser.
Q. Please confirm that all rubbish will be removed from the property and any outbuildings including, but not limited to the cellar
Q. Is there a Home Information Pack for the property?
*Home information packs or ‘HIPs’ were a requirement for a short period, before being suspended as of 21 May 2010. There is no requirement to have one, and they were of limited use, but if the property did have one produced, it can be helpful. The only part of the HIP that is still required is the Energy Performance Certificate.
Q. Is there an Energy Performance Certificate.
If yes, please provide.
If no, state why and when you expect one to be available.
Q. Has there been any change in any information given previously (including changes to the TransAction forms and to documents in the Home Information Pack)?
Q. If Yes, give full details of any change with the name of the form/ document and the question number, or supply a copy of the page of the form/ document with the changes clearly marked and dated.
Q. Do any drains, pipes or wires serving the property cross any neighbour’s property?
Q. Do any drains, pipes or wires leading to any neighbours property cross the property?
Q. Is there any agreement or arrangement about any of these drains, pipes or wires?
If Yes, give details or a supply a copy
Q. Does the seller need to enter any neighbouring land to repair or decorate the building or to maintain any of the boundaries, drains, pipes, wires or other local services?
a) If Yes, give details:
b) Has the seller always been able to enter any neighbouring land for the reasons given in question 3.1 without objection by the neighbours?
c) If No, please give details of any objection:
Q. Has anyone taken steps to stop, complain about, or demand payment for such access being exercised?
If Yes, give details, including any sums paid or owing, and if they are paid on a regular basis or only when access is required.
Q. Do any of the seller’s neighbours need to enter the seller’s land (on which the property is situate) to repair or decorate their building or maintain their boundaries or any drains, pipes or wires?
a) If Yes, give details:
b) Has the seller ever objected to a neighbour entering the seller’s land for the purposes given in 3.4?
c) If Yes, give details:
Q. Is access obtained to any part of the property over private land, common land or a neigbour’s land?
If Yes, give details
Q. Has anyone taken steps to stop, complain about or demand payment for such access being exercised?
If Yes, give details
Q. Does the property benefit from any of the following guarantees, warranties and insurance policies?
If Yes, supply a copy
a) new home warranty (e.g. NHBC)
c) Double glazing, rood lights, roof windows, glazed doors
d) Electrical work
f) Timber infestation
g) Central heating
i) Other (please state which, e.g. flooding)
Do you have written details of the work done to obtain any of the guarantees, warranties and insurance policies for the items in (a) to (i) above?
If Yes, please supply a copy or details.
Q. Have you made or considered making claims under any of the guarantees, warranties and insurance policies for the items in (a) to (i) above?
If Yes, please supply a copy.
Note: Improvements or building works that have been carried out since the property was last valued can increase the amoutn of council tax payable immediately following a sale.
Q. Has the property suffered any occasions of infestation (rodents, vermin, moths etc..)
a) If Yes, give details
b) Was treatment sought? Give details including approximate dates and list if the treatment has resolved the issue.
Q. Have any of the following taken place to the whole or any part of the property (including the garden) and if so, in what year?
a) Building works (including loft conversions, extensions and conservatories) <>Yes <>No <__> Year
b) Change of use
e) Business activities
f) Installation of replacement windows, roof lights, roof windows, glazed doors
g) Installation of central heating boiler
h) Installation of solar panels
Note: The title registers of some properties include clauses which are called ‘restrictive covenants.’ These may, for example, forbid the owner of the property from carrying out building work, from using it for business purposes, or from parking a caravan or boat on it unless someone else (often the builder of the house or freeholder) gives consent.
Q. Has consent under any restrictions in the title registrers or any other documents been obtained for works or activities carried out at the property?
If Yes, give details
If No, and consent was required, give details and answer questions (a) – (c) below:
a) Why was consent not obtained?
b) From whom should consent have been obtained?
c) Is there an indemnity policy in place of any missing consent?
Note: If consent should have been obtained under the restrictions and there is no evidence that it was obtained or there has been some problem with the title to the property or its rights, or a missing planning permission, building regulations approval of completion certificate, it is sometimes necessary to take out an indemnity policy to protect the owner of the property and the lender against a future claim.
Q. Have replacement windows, or roof lights, or roof windows or glazed doors been installed and the work completed on or after 1 April 2002?
If Yes, supply either a FENSA cerificate or a building regulation certificate.
Is there any indemnity policy for the property in relation to any matter, other than a policy for missing consents or documents? (For example, defective title, chancel repair, maisonette indemnity policy).
If Yes, give a list below and supply a copy of each policy.
Q. Have ‘Chancel’ checks and insurance been taken out / carried out
Q. Has any notice been received under The Party Wall Act 1996 in respect of any shared/party boundaries?
If Yes, supply a copy and give details f any works carried out or agreed.
Q. Does anyone other than the seller live at the property?
a) State the age of those occupiers under the age of 18.
b) Does the seller believe that any of these occupiers have the right to stay on the property without the sellers permission?
Note: These rights may have arisen without the seller realising. For example, rights may arise when occupiers have paid towards the cost of buying the property, paid for improvements or helped make mortgage payments. This is a matter on which the seller may need to take legal advice.
c) Are any of the occupiers tenants or lodgers?
If Yes, please give details and supply a copy of any Tenancy Agreement
d) Have all the occupiers agreed to sign the contract for sale agreeing to leave by the completion date?
If Yes, please give their full name(s):
If No, give details:
Q. Have there been any transfers of the whole or part of the property in the last five years?
If Yes, were these transfers of the property:
a) for full market value
b) by way of gift
If Yes, to any part, give details:
Q. Please confirm that all meters will be read upon completion and that the seller will not apply for any of the services to be disconnected up to or on completion without prior reference to the buyer.
If No, give details:
Q. Have there been difficulties regarding connection of any services and/or any recurrent difficulties with the provision of services to the property?
If Yes, give details:
Q. To the best of your knowledge is any part of the building used for purposes other than residential accomodation (e.g. retail premises, demised offices, undemised offices)
Q. Are there any undemised spaces you know of:
a) belonging to the sale property (e.g. terrace)
b) belonging to other properties within or adjoining the building (e.g. terraces)