Can I sue previous owners for not declaring?

(23 Posts)
laverneandshirl Tue 19-Aug-14 16:16:00

Appreciate any advice. I have recently moved into a house which is in a residential area but backs on to a number of restaurants. All was fine for the first six months but recently one restaurant's extraction tower (large silver chimney thing which draws hot air out of the kitchen and away) has started to make a loud rattling/humming noise which is ruining sitting outside and I can hear it in our kitchen and bedroom. It runs from 12pm to 11pm everyday of the week and is driving me mad.

I rang environmental health initially and they made an inquiry at the restaurant. When approached the owner ran up his yard and shouted a load of abuse over my wall. He claims that 'we' had been campaigning against him all last year about the extraction tower. Obviously this was before I moved in and the previous owners where here then.

Have I got grounds to sue the previous owners for not telling us about it even if they didn't go to environmental health to make an official complaint?

I really want to move if this keeps up. Environmental health are trying to get him to fix it. I would never have moved in if I had known there had been trouble in the past and I will have to declare it now as environmental health will be involved and we will def lose money on the sale plus all stamp duty etc we've paid. I am gutted, just do not need this at the moment.

GalaxyInMyPants Tue 19-Aug-14 16:18:22

Well if it was fine for the first six months then maybe the sellers thought it was fixed. It might have been ok for some time before they left.

chockbic Tue 19-Aug-14 16:21:27

Wouldn't people assume there would be smells and possibly noise from restaurants though?

You could try a solicitors letter to him.

ghostisonthecanvas Tue 19-Aug-14 16:22:29

Sounds like it was sorted. If it was quiet for 6 months then the restaurant must have fixed it for a time. I think you need to persevere with getting the restaurant to fix it. I don't think that the previous owners have done anything legally wrong (morally maybe). The restaurant already fixed it once, fingers crossed they will do it again and this time permanently.

laverneandshirl Tue 19-Aug-14 16:36:55

My point is that they had a dispute with a neighbour (the owner lives above the restaurant) and did not declare it on the seller info form which is fraud.

I expected some noise and there has been some noise but this is on a wholly different scale.

I just need to know if legally I can sue the previous owners if they had a dispute they didn't tell us about even if they didn't tell the council?

SantasLittleMonkeyButler Tue 19-Aug-14 16:48:29

If no official complaint was ever registered then wouldn't it be your word against theirs?

Also, one person's "campaign" could be someone else's "quiet word". The previous owners did not necessarily see it as a dispute, they may just have asked the restaurant owner to do something about it. My mum's neighbour asked her to remove a tree he didn't like (which was on mum's property, causing no damage to his property & had been there when he moved in) just because it was in his line of sight & he'd have a "better view" without it. Mum declined. Neighbour tutted & humphed but that was that. We didn't declare it when the house was sold - we didn't even think about it TBH.

My point being, what actually constitutes a dispute?

SantasLittleMonkeyButler Tue 19-Aug-14 16:51:23

Also, I should have said - I've no idea whether you technically could sue the previous owners, but I doubt you would achieve much.

BackforGood Tue 19-Aug-14 16:52:26

I agree with everyone else - it seems it was resolved. You've had no issue for all those months. It might not have been a 'dispute', just a request to do something about it. I sometimes ask my neighbours if they can cut back their trees - I wouldn't say I've ever been in dispute about it though.

Agree with other posters, suing is not your best course of action here, it would cost a fortune and you might not win, even if you did win you would only get compensation and that wouldn't solve your noise problem. If I were you I'd go and talk to the restaurant owner, explain your position and try to get the problem resolved amicably, if that doesn't work back to environmental health. Good luck!

bishboschone Tue 19-Aug-14 16:56:20

We own a shop under flats , it's a noisy shop with lots of machinery . We had a complaint and had to get a new ( very expensive ) machine because environmental health told us to. I would complain about it and see what happens .

laverneandshirl Tue 19-Aug-14 17:09:36

Thanks bishbosch, I think the tower just needs some basic maintenance which sounds like is now going to be done, but I can see this coming up again year after year as the owner doesn't seem to keep on top of maintenance unless harangued.

I had read that I could sue for losses incurred at any future sale as regardless of whether they felt the issue had been resolved, legally they had to declare it. A noise dispute is a dispute - bit different to a nice quiet tree!

I realise I am coming across as annoying and blunt but I am seriously pissed off I wasn't told. my 6 yr old is chronically ill and I just don't need this at the moment.

coraltoes Tue 19-Aug-14 17:29:01

Totally frustrating, I empathise as we had similar in an old flat of ours. However there were no grounds for using due to the caveat emptor nature of property buying (friends are property lawyers and looked at our case). Sadly you'll have to fight the battle yourselves and hope the former owners accidentally get food poisoned if they eat locally.

laverneandshirl Tue 19-Aug-14 17:32:07

coraltoes, thanks really helpful advice and made me laugh. pissed off i'll now have to declare it on any sale and they didn't.

Thankfully environmental health will serve a notice if noise continues so maybe it will all resolve itself.

laverneandshirl Tue 19-Aug-14 17:34:24

Arrrghh, sorry been a bit ranty haven't I? Maybe some wine a good idea.

GalaxyInMyPants Tue 19-Aug-14 18:53:29

I've just sold a house and the form asked me if there had been any legal disputes with the neighbours. It didnt ask about any non legal disputes.

Don't think it did.

It did ask if there was anything else I could think of which may affect the new owners enjoyment of the house. But that's quite a grey area possibly? Te sellers could argue they'd been honest when they'd said no as they thought it was fixed.

BigPawsBrown Tue 19-Aug-14 19:04:24

It's not fraud, is it? That's a criminal offence under the Fraud Act. And if you could sue them, you'd be looking to get your money back and give up the house. Is that what you want? How else would they compensate you?

There's a doctrine in English law called Caveat Emptor - buyer beware.

coraltoes Tue 19-Aug-14 19:07:28

That's right it would come under the "is there anything that impedes enjoyment" question which is sadly impossible to prove (I'd argue the block of flats at bottom of garden we ended up with and 2 yrs building noise was a big fat yes, but hey ho). Similarly you would not have to declare as you might find it a soothing noise ... Ahem.

coraltoes Tue 19-Aug-14 19:09:33

And you haven't been ranty. It is a colossal nuisance, and I hope env health sort if for you.

wowfudge Tue 19-Aug-14 19:12:53

For insurance reasons/fire safety, etc ducting from restaurants and takeaways should be the subject of a cleaning and maintenance programme. If the takeaway owner is a lessee, the landlord may require them to prove for insurance reasons that they have this done annually.

I suspect the ducting needs cleaning/maintenance, which could explain why there was no noise for the first few months. There is now a build up of grease, which makes everything less efficient and is extra weight on the structure and it's supports.

You could look on the land registry website and find out who the property owner is - write to them and start a dialogue with them or their agent. Responsible commercial landlords do not want tenants causing problems with the neighbours. Depends what kind of lease the tenant has how involved the landlord is, but just a suggestion.

wowfudge Tue 19-Aug-14 19:15:06

I've referred to your neighbour as a takeaway when it's a restaurant, but you know what I mean.

redtiger1079 Wed 20-Aug-14 00:59:51

I thought especially with property it is buyer beware?

I am guessing - if you had asked and they had lied that would have been fraudulent, but as vendors are they duty bound to flag up the bad bits about their house?

lottiegarbanzo Wed 20-Aug-14 09:16:03

There's a question on the conveyancing form about disputes with neighbours, which you have to answer. I don't think it's limited to legal disputes. If they had had one, even if resolved, they should have declared it.

Lying on that form is serious.

However, even if you could prove your case, all you can do is go to the small claims court. It will cost you money, take a lot of time and, even if you win, you won't necessarily get anything back, as they can fail to pay, avoid bailiffs etc for a very long time.

So, by all means feel annoyed with them but I think the only way to resolve the issue is with the restaurant owner, any landlord and the council.

Just be aware that if you were tempted to write to the previous owner to ask about their alleged dispute, you'd need to word your letter carefully and neutrally, with open questions. Accusing someone of lying on the conveyancing form is serious too and, in the unlikely event they felt they needed to defend themselves against that accusation, could land you in trouble.

betterworld Wed 20-Aug-14 10:03:49

Hi Laverne,

Just wanted to say that I was in a very similar situation to you, with no proof that the vendor had ever complained about the problem (I need to be vague, the lady could be on mumsnet). I still sued (this was 3 years ago now.

I painstakingly collected information from neighbours etc, trawled old threads on the internet for any possible reference to that neighbour. I did not have concluding proof but I went ahead anyway.

I hired a very hard nosed solicitor and I ended up getting about 10% of the value of the house back, although I spent about 2.5% of the house value on solicitor and surveyor fees (they will have to value the property with and without the annoyance).

The solicitor told me at the time that very, very few cases reach court stage and normally people settle in advance. We also settled. All-in court costs can reach 150k or more.

My situation was complicated by the fact that the couple selling were divorcing and they could not sit in a room with each other (not that I cared) .

I am extremely happy with what I did, I would always have felt cheated and now I still feel cheated but less so.

Also, despite hating the house because of the neighbour, I did it up completely (new kitchen, new extension, loft conversion) spending the full compensation money. The house was like a show house as I wanted to sell.

We sold one year ago, making about 50% of the original price paid as the buyers fell in love with the decor and the house. We obviously declared the problem straight away.

We then bought a smaller place in a really top location, and now we are excavating the basement to have a massive kitchen/diner. And there are no neighbours from hell.

What I am trying to say is that you need to collect information from the neighbours (in writing). Some will not want to do it as they will have then to declare the problem themselves, but others will.

The question on the SPIF is very clear and asks about also potential issues. This is clearly an issue, even though the vendor never went to court with the restaurant owner originally.

Good luck!

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