Advice to property sellers from APKF MD: do not hide any faults from potential buyers

It is extremely unwise to hide any problems in your home from a prospective buyer, warns Lanice Steward, MD of Anne Porter Knight Frank.

“A seller, aware that certain faults have not been reported to the buyer, may be tempted to ask the buyer to sign an agreement (after signing the sale deal) to the effect that he absolves the seller of any blame for defects which have not been revealed at the time of the sale. This practice, although occasionally resorted to, is not ethical or acceptable,” said Steward, “and we do not condone it at APKF.”

The voetstoots clause in any South African sale agreement document, said Steward, makes it clear that, although the buyer has no recourse if latent defects are discovered, if these were likely to have been known to the homeowner, he can be sued to have them put right.

If, for example, certain timbers were rotting, an alarm system did not work or a borehole pump was out of action that would not be seen as a latent defect because the buyer would presumably have known about such problems.

In a really serious case of hiding faults from a seller, said Steward, it is conceivable that a court of law could declare the entire sale null and void and impose penalties on the seller. In practice, she said, the voetstoots clause has usually been allowed to stand but there are serious consequences when non-disclosure becomes suspected.

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