Property Auctions expert David Sandeman offers guidance for those going through the process of buying property at auction, here he takes an in-depth look at understanding ‘Legal Packs.'
What is a property auction legal pack?
Usually when a property is sold at auction a legal pack containing documents relating to the property being auctioned will be prepared by the seller's solicitors. It will generally consist of the Special Conditions of Sale, the Land Registry Search, Leases (if applicable), office copy entries and other pertinent documents affecting the property. These packs are usually available to view online by clicking the tab beside each property which makes this part of due diligence much easier. However, there is no legal requirement for the vendor to produce or compile a comprehensive legal pack.
Scrutinise the Legal Pack
Reading the legal pack is a two stage process. Look through it yourself first and then if you are happy with what you’ve seen, then is the time to ask your solicitor to look, or if there were any points you wish to clarify ask your solicitor to look at those first to decide whether you wish to look further. At this stage ask your solicitor to look through the special conditions of sale, title deeds, leases, office copy entries etc. Your solicitor will also arrange to do the usual property searches, checking for planning permission for any extensions and also checking for any granted planning permission nearby that may have an effect on the property.
Tip: If you are not entirely happy with the information in the legal pack or there are still unanswered questions the best advice is 'Do Not Bid'. If you do bid, you will be bound by any matters that come to light later, and might adversely affect the property and unable to rescind (cancel) the contract.
Look out for the ‘Special Conditions of Sale’
Most auction properties will have a legal pack of documents most of which are important. Probably the most important is a document called 'special conditions' in which the vendor states that they do not accept any responsibility for any errors or omissions that you find out about after the auction. Anyone can read through the special conditions of sale and covenants.
The special conditions of sale to look out for are; a shorter completion period, an additional sellers premium and or overage clauses. With covenants, look out for; non development or split, rights of way, retirement flat age restrictions. If buying leasehold look for information regarding; the length of lease remaining, service charges and the sinking fund.
If there is nothing obviously untoward then get your solicitor to confirm your views and to look at the rest including access and the local authority planning portal. It is important that either you or your solicitor inspect this paperwork thoroughly prior to auction. Legal paperwork can always be viewed in the auction room on the day of the sale, but by this time it may be too late for the inexperienced purchaser.
Tip: Be aware that the legal pack can be incomplete, information may come in stages and very close to the auction day. Where a legal pack is incomplete contact the vendor’s solicitor. You may have to take a view, for example, if leasehold it might be appropriate to knock on the neighbour’s door to ask questions about the managing agent.
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By Beth Fox