Legal experts: most unusual questions about buying or selling a house
Legal experts from various ESPC agents offer free advice to buyers and sellers at our Property Information Centre every day – we asked them what questions they are most frequently asked for our new legal experts article series.
We’re taking a slightly different approach in the final part of the series, where we look some of the most unusual questions that our experts have been asked…
How can I find out if someone has died in a house or if it’s haunted?
Both Gary Middlemass from Campbell Smith and Kirsten Olverman from Purdie Solicitors said they had been asked about this. With a rich history in Edinburgh and the surrounding areas, and plenty of local ghost stories, it’s perhaps not that surprising that people are concerned about untimely deaths or hauntings in their new property.
Gary said “When you think about it, most old stone properties will have had a death in them at some point. Some people also Google the address to find out if anything more sinister happened…”
Kirsten agrees that buyers will have to do their own research to find out about the history of the property: “There is no duty in Scotland to disclose any crime or tragedy which has taken place in a property.
“Issues regarding the history of the property fall into matters governed by the concept of ‘caveat emptor’ – buyer beware. If this is something which would bother you, you would have to research it yourself.”
In terms of ghostly apparitions, short of getting a Ouija board out or calling the Ghostbusters, we’re afraid our experts couldn’t advise on finding out if your new home is haunted.
What happens if the seller or buyer dies before the keys are handed over?
Kirsten said that she occasionally receives enquiries about what happens if the seller or buyer dies before the date of entry. She advises: “If a seller dies before settlement, the property falls into their estate and the executors would have to proceed with the sale if missives had been concluded as the estate is bound by the contract. There may, however, be some delay in the sale whilst the executors obtain confirmation from the Sheriff Court.
“If only one seller dies and the other seller (in a joint purchase) held the title with a ‘survivorship’ clause then the sale could proceed as normal. If missives have not been concluded, then the executors have to make a decision about what to do, bearing in mind their first duty is to the beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate.
“If a purchaser dies before settlement, then it’s unlikely the transaction could proceed.”
How do I find out if the paint on the walls has animal fat in it?
Gary also noted that a vegan buyer once enquired about finding out whether there was animal fat in the wall paint.
As more people are adopting a vegan lifestyle, concerns about animal by-products in the paint may become more common. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find out – you could try asking the sellers at the viewing, but they may not even know themselves!
At the end of day, there are no silly questions when it comes to buying or selling your home, so if you do have any concerns about the process (no matter how strange you think they may be) make sure to pop into our Property Information Centre to get some free advice from our legal experts.