Assured Advice 37: Violent deaths and paedophiles

We have advice from Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards around whether agents need to disclose whether the previous occupant was murdered, committed suicide or a paedophile.

Blue for sale board in a row of agency boards

This Primary Authority Advice has been produced by Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Service, in partnership with The Property Ombudsman and Propertymark, for use by member businesses as an aid to complying with the law. If you follow this advice correctly, your local Trading Standards Service should respect this and not ask you to comply with the law in a different way. If you are contacted by a local authority enforcement body, please inform them that you are a member of the scheme.

Assured advice issued:

1. The previous occupant of a property was murdered or committed suicide; do I need to disclose this to potential purchasers / tenants?

Agents should pass on all the material information that a potential purchaser or tenant needs in order to make their transactional decision. Failure to do this could be considered a misleading omission.

In Office of Fair Trading v Purely Creative Ltd and others, the judge makes the following remarks: 'In my judgment the key to understanding this paragraph is the concept of "need". The question is not whether the omitted information would assist, or be relevant, but whether its provision is necessary to enable the average consumer to take an informed transactional decision'.

It is also worth mentioning that, following the Trento case above, ‘transactional decision’ can even include the decision whether or not to enter a shop.

The National Trading Standards' (NTS) ‘Guide to running your property business legally’ lists, under ‘What should be disclosed’, the following:

‘notable events at the property or unusual features such as a recent suicide or murder, or if the vendor is a convicted paedophile.’

As with every situation, it would depend on the circumstances. We would suggest that deaths that occurred inside the property some time ago are not material information. However, such an event may well still be public knowledge, the agent may be asked the question by a prospective purchaser/tenant, and thus should answer truthfully.

In relation to more recent events, we would concur with the advice given by NTS.

By way of example, we understand that a property in London advertised for sale in 2015 had the following statement included in its particulars: ‘BUYERS ARE KINDLY ASKED TO RESEARCH THE HISTORY OF THIS PROPERTY OR ENQUIRE WITH THE MARKETING AGENT PRIOR TO VIEWINGS.’

2. The vendor of a property is a convicted paedophile. Do I have to tell potential purchasers? What if the paedophile is not the vendor, but a near neighbour?

In relation to convicted paedophiles, we again agree with the advice given by NTS. However, we would remind agents that unless it is something of which they have personal knowledge, the only legal confirmation that someone has such a conviction is that available through the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme, and is subject to a number of conditions.

We would caution agents not only to avoid unsubstantiated gossip and rumour, but also to have regard to potential public order issues before publishing anything. We would suggest that such information only be disclosed to those whom the agent feels would benefit from it.

Download the full version

Download the full version of this advice to see what legislation and guidance Warwickshire County Council Trading Standards Service considered before providing this advice.