Dreaming about moving into your new home only to discover you have noisy neighbours, non-stop traffic whizzing past, or next-to-no wi-fi signal? Here's how to do your research...
Whether you are looking for a new home to buy or rent, you’ll want to be sure that it’s a relaxing and enjoyable place to live.
But what if you move in only to discover that you’re living next to the neighbours from hell? Or the incessant noise from the road drives you crazy? Or that there’s planning permission for an industrial project right on your doorstep?
Here we look at the information that a seller or landlord is legally required to give you – as well as the stuff that it is ‘good manners’ for them to pass on to you.
We’ve also come up with some tips to help you do your own detective work.
Sellers are legally required to declare certain information
If you are buying your new home, the seller is required to disclose certain pieces of information to you – and if they fail to do so, they could end up in court.
For example, a seller must tell you about a ‘defective title’ if there is no way you could reasonably find out before exchanging contracts. This might, for example, include a right of way across the property that isn’t on the title deeds.
What about the Seller’s Property Information Form?
Sellers are also required to fill in a Property Information Form (or TA6) which gives the buyer lots of information that they would otherwise be unable to find out through surveys or the standard searches.
- Information on boundaries – including those between you and your neighbours
- Details of any disputes or complaints with neighbours
- Notices of development or planning permission of properties nearby
- Alterations and building work ever done on the property (including details of planning permissions and building regulations approvals – or the absence of)
- Information about guarantees and warranties
- Buildings insurance details
- Information about environmental matters, such as flooding, energy efficiency and Japanese Knotweed.
- Details of rights and informal arrangements, such as access or shared use.
- Information about parking – including whether the property is in a controlled parking zone or local authority parking scheme.
This form is part of the pre-contract documents, so it’s legally binding. This means that you, as the buyer, can make a claim for compensation if the seller deliberately tries to conceal something – even after the sale has gone through.
It's worth visiting your potential new home at different times of the day to check for traffic noise
Other information may be provided by the seller
As part of the conveyancing process, the seller’s solicitor should provide certain additional information to your solicitor.
Sam Mitchell from online estate agent, HouseSimple.com, says: “This includes details such as where the gas and electricity meters and stopcock are located, and what fixtures and fittings will be left as part of the sale.
“However, there is certain information the seller’s solicitor is unlikely to provide, such as the strength of the phone signal and what day the bins are emptied. On these matters, the key is to collect the information yourself.”
Landlords also have some legal obligations
If you are renting, there are certain legal obligations on the landlord that can’t be ignored.
This includes the safety of the electricity and gas supplies, fire safety throughout the property, protection of deposit funds, and the landlord’s responsibilities for maintenance and repair.
In addition, there are certain issues which fall under the ‘Consumer Protection Regulations’ according to ARLA Propertymark.
- Planning activity
- Off-road parking
- What furniture and other items are being left
- Public rights of way – if a right of way goes through the grounds of the property
David Cox, chief executive of ARLA Propertymark, says: “These regulations are all-encompassing and require both landlords and agents to tell tenants all ‘material’ information necessary, in order for the tenant to make an informed decision. The law is about what tenants need to know – not what they want to know.”
For more information visit ARLA Propertymark.
A tenancy agreement will also include a mention of the tenant’s right to ‘quiet enjoyment’ of the property.
James Davis, founder of online lettings agency, Upad, says: “With this in mind, it is therefore advisable for landlords and lettings agents to inform the new tenant of anything that could encroach on this – such as noisy neighbours.”
The things you wish you’d known as either a buyer or a renter:
Here we look at some of the common issues that both buyers and renters wish they’d known about before moving into a new property – and some tips on the extra detective work you should do to ensure there are few surprises and unknowns as possible.
1. Are there problem neighbours?
As a buyer, you should be given information from the seller about any issues with neighbours, while a landlord should take steps to address this to ensure your ‘quiet enjoyment of the property.’
That said, no matter whether you are renting or buying, it’s worth doing your own research. If you’re looking to move into a block of flats, find out who lives upstairs and next door – and ask if there have been any disputes.
Try knocking on doors so you can get the lowdown from people who live in the vicinity. Also ask the seller or landlord directly. They are unlikely to be negative, but you may be able to get some clues from the things they say – or their tone of voice.
2. Are there proposals for nearby planning?
As a buyer, you should be given information about the development or planning permission of properties nearby.
As a renter, you should be given information as part of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
But it’s well worth doing some research yourself to find out if there are any planned changes to the area around your new home.
Check out the local authority’s website to find out as much as you can, and also ask neighbours if they know of any proposed plans.
3. Is the noise from the road so loud that it’s disturbing?
There’s no requirement on sellers or landlords to inform you about road noise, so you need to do your own research.
Try visiting the property on different days – and at different times of day – to get a real feel for noise levels from roads – as well as nearby railways. Also check if the property is under a flight path. You can do this by visiting Planefinder, a tool which tracks planes on maps in real time.
4. Does the property have any problems?
While issues with the property (such as damp or subsidence) should be highlighted on your survey if you are buying, there are certain things worth enquiring about as either a buyer or a renter.
This includes the age of the boiler and how old the wiring is. When you’re looking around, keep an eye out for problems such as damp, cracks in the walls and shoddy DIY, as these should set alarm bells ringing. Also look behind furniture, as that sofa or picture may have been put there for a reason.
5. Which items of furniture and which fixtures and fittings are being left behind?
If you are buying, be sure to quiz the seller on exactly which fixtures and fittings are being left behind (to check this tallies with the information provided on the official ‘Fixtures and Fittings’ form – also known as the TA10).
You want to be clear on items such as curtains and light fittings and so on. If you are moving into a furnished rental property, check with the landlord or lettings agent exactly what will still be there when you move in. This should be set out clearly in the inventory.
6. How easy it is to get furniture in?
There’s nothing worse than unloading your furniture on Move day only to discover you can’t get the sofa through the front door, or can’t get your bed up the stairs.
The key is to plan in advance. Ask the seller or landlord if they had any difficulties, and hopefully you’ll get an honest answer. Also take measurements when you look around.
7. What will happen to old sets of keys?
As a buyer, you will want to ensure that all sets of keys for the property have been gathered together (including those held by neighbours, cleaners and so on).
Once you’ve moved into a property that you’ve bought, you should get all locks changed as a matter of priority.
As a renter, it’s up to the landlord or lettings agent to ensure keys from previous tenants are returned – but you should double check that there are not still old sets of keys still hanging around.
If you are worried, see if you can persuade the landlord to change the locks, as this will give you complete peace of mind.
8. If there’s off-road parking, will I definitely get a space?
While the property may be advertised with ‘off-road parking,’ what you need to know is whether you will actually be able to get a space.
Try quizzing the seller or the landlord to get an honest answer – especially on the parking situation in the evening when parked cars are at the maximum.
Also, find out whether parking permits are needed, and how much they cost, and whether there are any parking restrictions or covenants in the area.
9. How big is the garage - and will my car fit?
If you’re lucky enough to get a garage with your new home, this should be included on the floor plan you get as a buyer, or the paperwork you get given as a renter.
But to be on the safe side, take a tape measure so you can jot down the dimensions and check that your car will fit.
10. Is there a decent internet service?
Fast internet is now a ‘must-have’ for many people, with findings in a Zoopla poll showing a huge 86% of us would be put off moving to an area with slow broadband.
The key is to check you’ll be able to get the speeds you need. Ask the seller or landlord to tell you about their experience with broadband, and see what deals and speeds are available in your area with the uSwitch broadband checker tool.
Also turn your mobile on and check the signal strength – and ask the seller or landlord what network they are on, and what their signal strength is.
11. Where is the stopcock located?
There is no legal requirement for a landlord to tell you where the stopcock is, but it’s ‘good practice’ for them to do so. If not, make sure you ask.
As a buyer, you should have details listed in your paperwork, but it can’t harm to ask the current owner while you’re looking round.
Also remember to ask about the gas and electricity meters too – and whether there are smart meters installed.
Note that if you’re renting, it’s best practice for both you and your landlord to take the meter reading at the start and end of the tenacny, as you are only responsible for utility bills whilst in occupation.
12. Is there decent water pressure?
There is no legal obligation on a seller or a landlord to inform you of poor water pressure, so you need to do your own spy-work.
When you’re looking around the property, check the taps – and shower – for water pressure.
Find out whether the toilet flushes, the sinks drain, and that all the taps work. Also check the hot water is working.
13. Which day is bin day?
Be sure to ask the seller or landlord which day is bin day as your new bins are bound to become full right after Move day and you don’t want to miss a valuable slot.
Also check which days recycling is collected. Generally speaking, it is ‘best practice’ for a landlord to tell you about bins and recycling – and it’s actually a legal requirement for certain properties which are subject to a local authority licensing scheme.
You can also find more about bin day and recycling on your local council’s website, or by visiting Gov.uk.
14. Is there a good Deliveroo service?
Finally, while there’s is no obligation on the seller or a landlord to tell you whether you can get your favourite takeaways delivered, this could be a nice touch for them to leave in a folder of information for you.