An insurance company claims that around 60 per cent of estate agents do not check with their vendor clients about disputes with neighbours, for fear of having pricing or sale difficulties if conflicts are revealed to buyers.
During the summer Churchill Insurance interviewed 116 estate agents across England, Scotland and Wales - a very small sample - but claims only 40 per cent actively ask vendors about issues with their neighbours.
The firm also alleges that 10 per cent of agents rely solely on the purchasers’ solicitor or conveyancer to investigate existing issues with neighbours.
Perhaps most controversially, Churchill claims only 15 per cent of agents may pass such information on to prospective buyers.
Under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations, agents are obliged to reveal any negative issues about a property, if known to them, which may affect the buying decision. If an estate agent has been made aware of a nightmare neighbour or previous council disputes, they are obliged to inform the buyer.
Withholding information that could affect the buying decision could leave estate agents open to legal action and fines of up to £5,000 and even possible imprisonment.
Despite the small sample, the firm suggests that as many as one in seven estate agents have seen instances where asking prices have been dropped because of a dispute between a vendor and neighbour.
On average the dispute has apparently led to a 3.8 per cent price reduction.
A statement from Churchill accompanying the release of the survey findings suggests that buyers are relying on solicitors or conveyancers to investigate issues with potential new neighbours.
“The conveyancing process can unravel any open disputes or circumstances that could lead to disagreements, but the subjectivity of loud music or an aggressive neighbourhood dog means these checks may not capture potential day to day problems” claims the firm.
The company advises buyers to do their own due diligence alongside that undertaken or revealed by estate agents and solicitors, and suggests that would-be purchasers check that the agent they use is not only a member of a professional organisation but also has “positive online ratings” or comes with the personal recommendation of family or friends.