View Full Version : public interest disclosure act 1998- Help!

Mr George
08-06-2005, 10:44 AM
Can anyone inform me as to whether or not the disclosure act on neighbours applies to landlords and letting agents disclosing information on neighbours activities.
It has come to light that both the landlord and the letting agent were in full knowledge of the actvities of the immediate neighbours but failed to disclose this information before letting agreements were drawn up and signed.

Does anyone have any experience of this previously or know if the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 includes such a scenario under its umbrella of jurisdiction?

08-06-2005, 10:50 AM
I think the answer most certainly is yes! This is a material fact, but they might try and hide behind whether you actually asked them if there was anything you should know about the neighbours, rather than their having to tell you, but it is a pretty weak excuse if they do!

Would you have taken the property had you known what you know now? Unlikely!

I would say that if you wished to give notcie on the property because of what you ahve discovered the alndlord could do little or nothing to prevent you. Write to the agent (copy to landlord!) telling them that you know they withheld information and that you might want to excercise your right to terminate without due notice!

Mr George
08-06-2005, 10:58 AM
Many thanks.
A letter is almost certainly the action i will take.

Our lease expires at the end of July and we are hoping to complete the purchase of a house by such time to coincide so we certainly don't want to vacant prior to lease end so unfortunately terminating without notice would serve us no purpose!

Although it was a shock to come home yesterday to find a "to let" board hammered in the lawn when the agent has made no attempt to contact us in the past 6 months!

The agent meant to be acting on behalf of the landlord is poor to say the least.

With regard to disclosing the information to prospective tenants when they view the property, what is the best tact we can take?
Not wanting to really penalise the landlord with no tenants leaves a tricky situation.
However i would not like the next tenants to discover like we have!

Any ideas (legal) !!??

08-06-2005, 14:59 PM
I think the answer must be no. The Act is there to protect individuals who make certain disclosures of information in the public interest; to allow such individuals to bring action in respect of victimisation; and for connected purposes.

I am not aware that any part of the Act that obliges anyone to disclose anything, it merely provides them with protection where they are so obliged. But if you can refer me to the section you think does so oblige I will glady reconsider, it isn't an Act I am very familiar with.

Although you say that "It has come to light that both the landlord and the letting agent were in full knowledge of the actvities of the immediate neighbours but failed to disclose this information before letting agreements were drawn up and signed." you don't say what those activities were or whether you asked any relevant questions regarding the neighbours prior to signing the agreement.

On the surface it would appear to be a case of caveat emptor, although it would be helpful to know what, if any, formal relationship exists between the landlord and the neighbours you speak of.

Mr George
08-06-2005, 15:34 PM
Steve P many thanks.

I am querying in the same context that when asking about "nasty neighbour" types etc when looking to purchase a house the vendor must pass on all known knowledge of the neighbours.

When enquiring about the neighbours when we became tenants nothing of the "rumours", that they now have called them, were mentioned.

Since making my own enquiries as to the comings and goings of next door we have since been informed that it is "an observed property" by the CPO.
I shall leave the description i have used to your imagination! ;)

My question is really, who ultimately bears the responsibility to clarify any previous "tenant rumours" into fact and then pass that on to any prospective tenants, just as buying a house?

08-06-2005, 22:11 PM
Someone selling a property does not have to disclose anything at all, however conveyancing solicitors acting for purchasers specifically ask sellers (via thier solicitors) some standard questions. For example they normally ask whether there is any history of disuptes with neighbours. The seller can either refuse to answer the questions, leaving the buyer to draw his own conclusions or answer them. If he answers them and his answers turn out to have been dishonest then the purchaser will have a cause of action. But they key thing is that these questions must be asked by the buyer, the seller is not obliged to volunteer anythging, and the answers are documented by the solicitors so there is no argument about what was asked and what replies were recieved.

If, as a prosepctive tenant, you want to be in the same position it is up to you to ask questions of the landlord or agent. They are not obliged to volunteer such information, or even provide it if you ask for it. So long as they don't lie to you they have done nothing wrong. Neither the landlord or the agent are under any obligation to pass on rumours about neighbours, indeed they might well lay themselves open to claims if they did. Nor are they under any obligation to investigate rumours.

As I say, this appears to be a simple matter of caveat emptor.

It is no different to you buying a used car from me. I may know that the brakes need fixing and that there is rust on the cills, but it is not my job to tell you about it. My job is to get you to buy the car for as much as I can get. It is your job to make sure the car meets your needs.

Mr George
09-06-2005, 07:16 AM
Steve, thanks.

Caveat Emptor & Car sold as seen , fair enough.
I had been told that the Disclosure Act 1998 meant that if you asked any questions and didn't get the truth you had right to recompense.

So in the cold light of day, how would anyone know if they were moving into/buying a house next to a Police labelled "observed property", and for what reasons it was "observed"

Thanks for your time.

Looks like i'll have to inform future tenants myself when they get shown around before our lease is up or like us they won't get told by the agent or the landlord until like me they find out and think they are doing the landlord a favour by telling him. Only to find out they both knew and never said.

Guess for the landlord and agent its a classic case of
"what goes around, comes around"

09-06-2005, 09:00 AM
I have to take issue with Steve's comment that in pre-contract enquiries, a seller is not required to disclose adverse information when asked about a neighbourly dispute and can simply refuse to answer the question. I would say this is not so! If the owner has indeed been involved in a dispute with a neighbour and fails to answer the question, then I'm afraid they are in as much trouble as if they had disclosed it. Withholding such information when asked for an answer is not wise!

Mr George
09-06-2005, 09:30 AM
I have to say this was what i believed to be the case by estate agents currently going through the process of buying our house.
And it was also the advice given to my parents who have recently sold their house.
It was harsh for them as the next door neighbour was going senile and was a minor problem!

Thanks for the input chaps!

Anymore....... ?

09-06-2005, 12:13 PM
Paul, A seller is not required to disclose anything at all to a potential purchaser. The only obligation he has is to answer any queries honestly if he decides to answer them. If he answers and his answer turns out not to have been honest then the buyer may have a cause of action.

Whilst it might be possible to phrase questions so that no response could be taken to imply that there were no problems that is something I would not want to comment upon as I don't know the answer. But if you ask the simple question "have there been any disputes with neighbours" and the seller does not answer it he has not misled the purchaser. If it turns out there is or was a dispute. The purchaser was free to infer whatever he wished from the sellers failure to answer.

As I said, if a seller decides not to answer then the buyer must draw his own inferences (with the advice of his solicitor or surveyor depending upon the issue). So if a seller does not answer the question regarding disputes with neighbours one might infer that there has been/is a disupute and might wisely decide to walk away from the purchase. The seller is as free to infer that there has been a dispute as he is to infer that there has not.

In any event the Act reffered to does not, as I said, require anyone to disclose anything so far as I am aware. I am more than happy to look at any part of the Act that anyone thinks does require disclosure and review my opinion though.

In any event, so far as Mr George's problem is concerned the Act has no relevance. So whether he has a case depends upon the specific questions he asked and the specific responses he got, as well as on his ability to prove that he asked those questions and got those responses. Even if he did ask, and could prove that he asked, whether there were any "nasty neighbours" then the agent and landlord might still have justification for not passing on any suspicions they might have had since to do so might amount to slander.

On the strength of what has been said here I do not see that Mr George has a case, but rather it appears to be a case of caveat emptor.

Mr George
09-06-2005, 13:15 PM
Thanks again for your thoughts.

I am still left amazed that potentially anyone can get caught out and end up living next to a male entertainment house that induces a semi permanent car park and a close used as a turning circle.

It would take a very discerning eye to notice such things that are a sure fire give away upon a couple of viewings of a property.

Luckily i had access to the Community Police Officer who confirmed what we thought and told us that it was therefore an observed property.

So whether you are buying or renting a house it seems that you would never know, even though people do have the knowledge to enlighten you.

Caveat emptor i can understand with a second hand car with no warranty and a hand made For sale sign!
Caveat emptor for a house that will take the next 25 years to pay for and that could lead to negative equity because people didn't disclose information on the neighbours, surely is an extremely hard to concept to accept.

There seems to be no way you could find out. Until its too late.


Andy Parker
09-06-2005, 22:07 PM
Steve P - My understanding of neighbour disputes is that they have to be disclosed if they resulted in any court action.I don't know if the question has to be asked or the information has to be 'volunteered'.The best of health to you and good to have you back!

11-06-2005, 09:05 AM
I do recall reading about a firm which had been set up specifically to investigate neighbours and neighbourhoods and provide reports to potential purchasers, although I can't recall thier details.

You may find them by doing an internet search.