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We are all too familiar with the concept that purchases, of any kind, come with those tedious and boring Terms and Conditions. You convince yourself you have, in actual fact, read all 10 pages of the terms within the span of 60 seconds (that’s okay, no judgements here).
But what if those terms and conditions really matter and could affect you more than you think? Spoiler alert: it could affect you really badly. The acceptance of any terms and conditions should never be taken lightly, but that advice really rings true when it comes to purchasing your home. There are horror stories fit for a Hollywood film, about people bound by the most ludicrous conditions. But, never fear – Blackadders to the rescue as this article intends to provide you with some very useful advice and tips. Don’t worry, your goosebumps should disappear by the end of this.
Whenever you buy a property, your solicitor is provided with the title deeds of the house. These often include the various conditions, also known as burdens, you need to adhere to and the rights you can enjoy. As with most rules, the goal of them is to ensure everyone knows of their responsibilities and therefore we can all live in harmony – how wonderful.
Most title conditions are now redundant, namely those created under the old feudal system. I won’t bore you with the details of that system, but basically a “superior” had control over how a property was to be used, even long after ownership of that property was passed to someone else. That system no longer exists so you’ll be glad to know you won’t have to pay some random individual £150 annually for no particular reason.
On the other hand, you may see conditions that may still be valid and potentially enforceable. For example, your title deeds may state that you can only keep one dog and one cat on the property. But before you panic and rush off to find your pet hamster a new home, you should know that certain criteria have to be met in order to actually enforce a burden. For example, if your neighbour wants you to get rid of your hamster, she has to prove that the condition exists to benefit her property. Furthermore, she must also demonstrate that the “breach” is detrimental to the enjoyment of her own property. Does Harry the hamster have such an effect on your neighbour? Most likely not.
Now for the scary bit though, you should never automatically assume that there will be no one who will have an interest to enforce a burden. If someone with an interest in the condition in question can somehow prove that the breach of that condition has genuinely negatively impacted their enjoyment of their own property, you may very well have to change your conduct. This could mean that a condition which states that you shall only use your home as a private dwelling house and for one family only, could be enforced after you convert your home into a Bed & Breakfast as that would technically be a breach of the burden. Gone are your dreams of running a 5-star B&B and winning Channel 4’s Four in a Bed.
Ultimately, it is always wise to seek advice from your solicitor. They will make you aware of any unusual burdens and let you know the various conditions you must comply with. It is always much safer to decide if a property is for you once you are provided with all the relevant information. So, before you have your heart set on that dream home with a dollar sign shaped swimming pool and palm trees at the front gate, come and speak to us and let us put your mind at ease.
If you would like to discuss title conditions or any other property matters, please contact a member of the Blackadders’ Residential Property Team working in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Perth, and across Scotland.
Zeenat Reid, Solicitor
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