Latent and patent defects

If you are selling your property, make sure that you compile a list of all its defects. Problems such as leaking roofs, faulty plumbing and cracked window panes should be included and should be pointed out by you, or your estate agent, to the buyer before he or she signs the offer to purchase.

The law recognises two types of defects: '˜patent defects, which are obvious ones like broken windows, and '˜latent defects, which are not so obvious, such as dry rot.

The '˜voetstoots clause is often included in an Agreement of Sale to cover you against defects of which you have no knowledge. However, if you know of a defect, and do not disclose it to the buyer, the '˜voetstoots clause will not protect you against liability - nor will it indemnify your estate agent against a charge of failing to disclose material information to the buyer.

'˜Defects also include the environment: squatter problems in the neighbourhood, pending rezoning, road construction projects - anything which might negatively impact ownership of your property and which my influence a buyers decision to buy. This is not to say that you are obliged to conduct an in-depth investigation at the Municipal offices, but if you are aware of such circumstances - especially if they have been publicised - you should consider them to be latent or patent defects and advise prospective purchasers accordingly.

The best option is to take stock before you place your property on the market. Fix up as many problems as you can, and make sure that you discuss the others with the estate agent and with potential buyers.

Please note: We have compiled this information in good faith, but we accept no liability for any errors, or for any use that is made of it, or for any problems or damage that may arise as a result of using or acting upon this information.
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