What is Caveat Emptor?

What is Caveat Emptor?

Increasingly property buyers are aware of their responsibility to discover building defects before sale – this is known as the Latin principle Caveat Emptor or ‘buyer beware’.

The full quotation is ‘caveat emptor, qui ignorare no debuit quod jus alienum emit’ – ‘let a purchaser, who ought not to be ignorant of the amount and nature of the interest which he is about to buy, exercise proper caution.’

Under this common law, the purchaser must make their own investigations of a property as there is no legal obligation for the current owner to disclose anything relating to the quality of the property or the land it is built on.

As a result home or property buyers that subsequently attempt to seek compensation for defects discovered after purchase will find themselves at a significant legal disadvantage.  There is little recourse to compensation for purchasing a property with defects.

The worst case scenario is that you find yourself with a property (and a related mortgage) that is worth significantly less than you bought it for.

A building inspection is consequently a prudent risk reduction strategy in what is likely to be one of the most significant purchases of a lifetime.


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