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Advice needed on consumer/sale issue

(8 Posts)
Widowcyril Tue 12-May-15 19:47:22

We sold our touring caravan after advertising on a website. The buyer visited and inspected it twice before paying cash for which we gave a typed form of receipt. The caravan is 15yrs old, so not in any way a "modern" or new one. The buyer commented several times that he had viewed lots of a similar age but they were all in terrible condition and damp, he said that ours was the best he had found but accepted that the age meant that it wouldn't be perfect. He paid a few hundred pounds less than the asking price too.

As he was setting off, after accepting and handing over his money, he reversed his car into the front end but seemed ok and drove away.

We have just had a call from him, days later, saying that he has now found damp at the front, coincidentally close to where he reversed into it, and that he has actually taken a panel off, so removed part of the internal structure which, in a caravan, is actually an essential part of the structure and key to strength of the caravan. He says he suspected damp so removed the structure and now claims to have found signs of damp issues being deliberately concealed. We assured him that this wasn't something that we would have been capable of as we are not knowledgeable, experienced or skilled enough to do this.

So he basically wanted to return the now partially-dismantled caravan and ask for us to accept it and return his money. Which we do not obviously now feel inclined to go along with as his actions would have devalued it by around £2k at least. We genuinely were not aware of any issues with it when sold and if it hadn't been hit by his car and he hadn't admitted to removing a panel, then this might have been a different situation, as we have had lots of other potential buyers calling from the same advert, though we might have considered re-selling at a reduced amount if necessary.

But we are seriously concerned about where we stand legally. Anyone able to offer any advice on this?

prh47bridge Tue 12-May-15 20:44:53

Assuming you don't run a business selling caravans your only liability is if the caravan did not match any description you gave of it or you misrepresented it. From the information you have given you didn't do either of these so you are not liable.

Widowcyril Tue 12-May-15 20:54:29

Thanks so much for replying, I think I basically need to know AIBU? I've never been in this sort of position before and it's pretty unnerving.

Consumer advice sites use the term "Buyer Beware" but then a caravan specific site says that the buyer can only take action if they find a hidden or latent problem such as damp, so this is a worry for us if it is true.

I am wondering as he seems to think that there are no signs of actual "live" damp as he says that it must have dried out, so if this is a true sign of historic damp then this would be an old repair from before we bought it. So we really don't understand why he would have gone digging around and removing an internal panel. I did point out to him that the price that he actually paid was the list price we were given by a dealer for one in a poor condition, as excellent condition would have been at least another £500.

Can I ask, even if it were damp, would we have to refund him after he has taken things apart and reversed his car into it, effectively weakening the structure at least? AIBU?

Widowcyril Tue 12-May-15 21:00:43

And, no, we don't run any businesses, this was entirely a private sale.

prh47bridge Tue 12-May-15 23:32:26

Any consumer advice site that says buyer beware is giving poor advice. If someone buys a second hand caravan from a dealer they have similar rights to buying a new caravan. However, when buying from a private individual there is less protection.

I would also ignore the caravan specific site you quote. That also sounds like it doesn't understand the law.

This is a private sale. Your liability is as I stated. You were not aware of damp. You did not claim that the caravan was free from damp. You did not misrepresent the caravan. You therefore don't have to pay him a penny.

If you had said the caravan was free from damp he would have a case. I presume you didn't say any such thing so he hasn't got a leg to stand on.

Widowcyril Wed 13-May-15 11:22:59

Thanks Bridge. I know I'm going on about this but struggled to sleep last night.

It was advertised as bodywork condition "Good" and internal condition "good" but then stated in the description that it was "Excellent condition for age". It might have also said "dry" but I honestly don't remember and the ad has now disappeared. It didn't specifically use the term "damp" or "free from damp" though.

I have found that at least two of the major caravan sites say that touring caravans have a life expectancy of 15 years, which is the exact age of the one we sold, and that buyers should bear this in mind when buying. The major one has a guide that suggests buyers have expert inspections when buying privately and that they should take along a damp meter (£20 from DIY stores), neither of these were done. Our buyer repeatedly said that it was a very good caravan for it's age, but it was very old and that he expected to find problems but that was to be expected for its age.

We did discuss with the buyer that we had found no signs of damp, which was entirely true and honestly to the best of our knowledge as we had both tried inspecting it but aren't by any means real "caravanners". He spent some 3-4hrs inspecting it over two separate visits a week apart and said that he had seen a lot of similar aged ones that were very damp but this one was great. Last night I remembered that the dealer we bought it from a few years ago had produced a damp reading which showed it was OK at that time, so sort of supporting our claim of "to the best of our knowledge".

But am concerned that what our buyer might have found could possibly be an old repair from its earlier life, not necessarily for damp, that has possibly begun to fail unnoticed by us, although we really weren't aware of anything.

The thing is that we feel he may now have damaged the caravan beyond any possible reasonable repair in searching for signs of "damp". He did also actually reverse into it causing quite a jolt while we watched him attempting to hook-up his car, we didn't examine it at the time because he had already handed us the cash and he still seemed happy to drive off with it.

So, not sure if this would be considered misrepresentation or not. Also, if it is or isn't misrepresentation, do we have to accept his return and refund if he has caused extensive damage to it in the days that he has had it?

prh47bridge Wed 13-May-15 17:48:40

It does not sound as if you have misrepresented the caravan and I think he would have great difficulty proving you had. If the caravan matches the description and you did not misrepresent it you do not have to refund him a single penny.

Widowcyril Thu 14-May-15 10:40:27

Thank you so much Bridge.

We were worried that we might have to refund him AND still be left with a caravan that he has now seriously damaged himself that we could never sell on again.

I have managed to get into my 40's without ever really buying or selling anything privately. It's been an experience I wouldn't like to repeat.

Fingers crossed that we don't hear anything more from him.

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