Questions still crop up regularly in the residential property marketing field about just where the boundary lines should now be drawn between “voetstoots” deals and those where the estate agent can, in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, now be held responsible for non-disclosure of a defect.
Discussing this recently, Bill Rawson, Chairman of the Rawson Property Group, said that while it is clear that today’s legislation largely exonerates the person selling the home from being held responsible at a later stage for ‘latent’ defects not spotted at the time of the buyer’s inspections, the position of the estate agent is not so clearly defined.
“As a member of the supply chain, in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, the estate agent is quite clearly expected to be exceptionally diligent in looking for and listing potential defects – and, as I read the act, if for whatever reason he misses a defect, he could be held responsible for its repair, no matter what the cost.”
This interpretation of the law, as it applies to estate agents, added Rawson, has yet to be backed up by successful cases in the law courts. So far in property matters, he said, there has been very little resort to the courts on Consumer Protection Act matters and it is quite possible that the more radical interpretation will be softened in practice, relieving the estate agent from at least part of the heavy burden of thorough home inspections where, with the best will in the world, it is often possible, especially for a non-technical person to miss a latent defect.