Buyer beware: what can I do if the boiler in the house I’ve just bought is broken?

Question: I recently moved into a house I spent a lot of money buying, only to discover that the boiler wouldn’t work.

During the long buying process I was told that the boiler was fitted in 2016 which, after all, isn’t long ago, and was in good working order.

Now I have obtained a report from an experienced plumber who says that the boiler must have been broken for at least two months, which should have been known by the seller, so what can I do? 

Answer: An underlying principle of property law in England and Wales is “caveat emptor” — meaning buyer beware — which means that it is incumbent on a buyer to find out everything they want or need to know about a property prior to purchasing it.

There is no specific duty on a seller to disclose physical defects, relating to a property, to a buyer.

However, there is an enquiry in the Property Information Form, which you should have received when you purchased the property, which asks the seller to confirm whether the heating system is in “good working order” as you mention.

If the seller has stated that it is and failed to amend their reply prior to exchange of contracts, then there may be a claim against the seller for misrepresentation.

You would need to demonstrate that the boiler was in fact broken prior to exchange, that the seller was aware of this and that you relied on the seller’s misrepresentation when deciding to enter into the contract.

Do also check whether a guarantee is in place relating to the boiler, as this may be the most straightforward route to recovering any loss.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

If you have a question for Piers King, email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE.

Questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here.

Piers King is a solicitor in the property department of Streathers Solicitors LLP.

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