Unexpected terms and conditions written into title deeds can
derail sales or, at the very least, delay them for several months
if they come to light between an offer being accepted and the sale
Sam Gibson in Strutt & Parker's Morpeth office says:
"It is all very well finding a buyer but making the buyer perform
and getting them to the contract stage is the challenge these days.
It has to be in the seller's interest to shorten this window of
uncertainty if at all possible.
"If you are thinking of selling your property, please check your
deeds carefully and make sure all your paperwork is in order. It is
essential to have listed building consent and planning permissions
if you have extended your property so make sure copies are provided
to your solicitor. A buyer will not proceed until building
regulations have been signed off. Be sure that this has happened
and that you have the paperwork to prove it. It is much easier to
get everything together before you go on the market than get a
nasty surprise and end up trying to sort things out in the middle
of a sale. Normally, there will not be anything to worry about -
and it is rare that a sale is actually jeopardised as a result -
but it is best to check everything through and be prepared.
"We are trying to encourage our clients to be much more
forward-thinking and to 'frontload' a sale. The last thing anyone
wants is an unnecessary glitch just as the sale is close to
completion. We have in some cases seen agreed sales delayed by
months because of a surprise obstacle in the title deeds. We make
every effort to sort these issues out but they take time and
occasionally a buyer is unable to take the strain or loses that
all-important confidence and the deal falls through."
Mr Gibson cited a recent example where a buyer halted their
purchase of a property they adored because of work done without
listed building consent up to 45 years ago by a previous owner. The
absence of listed building consent meant the conservation officer
had to inspect the property and issue enforcement proceedings.
"While this was an entirely resolvable situation it was symptomatic
of today's market place where buyers are either not prepared to
'take a view', or are being advised not to by their solicitors," he
said. "As little as four years ago, when the marketplace was in an
entirely different state of repair, buyers were pressing ahead
regardless of such issues in case they lost the property."
Gibson added an example of a house which Strutt & Parker
recently sold where they discovered, after the sale was agreed,
that the deeds stipulated all the owners in a cluster of barn
conversions had the right of veto over a new buyer. "All the owners
had to give their approval," he said. "In the end, they had a
meeting to thrash it out and remove those terms from the deeds.
After all, this would have affected all the neighbours' future
sales, not just the sale in question. It would of course have been
much better for everybody to have had that meeting in advance of
the sale campaign."