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Honesty is seller’s best policy

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Sellers who fail to disclose or try to conceal patent defects could end up in legal trouble.

Property sellers should never conceal or be untruthful about defects or drawbacks in their homes as this is dishonest and could result in a legal dispute, says Gerhard Kotzé, managing director of the RealNet estate agency group.

While many agents already use a defects disclosure form when receiving a mandate to market a property, the new Property Practitioners Act (PPA), which will soon come into effect, will make it mandatory.

“It will also make it compulsory for such a document to be included in any sale agreement, which means there will be no room for argument about defects you may or may not have disclosed to your agent and/or buyer .”

It also means sellers who fail to disclose or try to conceal patent defects could end up in legal trouble. Kotzé says patent defects are problems you would clearly have known about – for example, cracks in a wall that you wallpapered over, but didn’t mention.

Latent defects are those a seller would probably not have known about and, therefore, not disclosed. An example is a pipe in a wall with a slow leak that gives rise to mould weeks after your buyer has taken transfer of the property.

The PPA also stipulates that when a defects disclosure document is not included in a sale agreement, it will be assumed you did not disclose any defects , whether you know about them or not.

“If you point out problems verbally, you could be in trouble without documentary evidence to prove you were honest .” Kotze says enabling an agent to make full disclosure about known defects is likely to make buyers more amenable to meet your asking price as there are unlikely to be repair costs they have not allowed for.

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