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Missive claims – is everything in working order?

10 May 2021 Litigation Blair MacDonald

Moving into a new home can be stressful. And with a new home comes new quirks to get your head round. The way you have to twist the front door key in a specific angle to release the snib; the way the boiler hums and gurgles at night; the back left gas hob that never seems to catch first time.

Most of these things we grow to live with, even loving them for their oddities. But sometimes, no matter how thorough our survey has been, there’s something that hits us out of the blue that we can’t learn to live with. Whether it’s an issue with the central heating, a security concern, or perhaps it’s a drainage problem that hadn’t been spotted as the property had been sitting empty.

When buying or selling a property in Scotland, the missives are the contractual letters that are exchanged between the solicitors of the buyer and seller. They contain all the terms and conditions surrounding the sale and are therefore required before the conveyancing (transfer of the property ownership from seller to buyer) can take place.

Part of the missives of a sale mean the seller has to disclose any faults in the property, which you in turn (as buyer) have to agree to. If, on moving in day, you notice something they have not disclosed, you can report it and raise what is known as a ‘missives claim’. Under Standard Clauses, the buyer has five days to report it to the seller and they are responsible to fix it (as long as it is over £400) so that it is in working order.

These missives claims are not however part of the conveyancing process and therefore it may be worthwhile taking insurance to cover these types of eventualities. The cover will likely well outweigh the costs to pursue any claim, or indeed to fix items yourself.

So don’t ignore the dripping tap, or the faulty gas hob. Make sure, even if you don’t need to use it right now, that you check the heating works. Run a bath. Check all the windows lock properly. And look at the bigger picture. Have you checked with your neighbours that there is no planned development that would negatively impact the value of the property? Or that the boundary wall between the properties is intact?

Once missives are in place, a binding legal contract is formed, therefore it is difficult to negate on a sale even if you do find problems. It is worth checking everything and especially if you buy in the summer, thinking ahead and ensuring the property is safe and weatherproof. Only then can you sit down, crack open a bottle of bubbly, and celebrate being in your new home!

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