Home buying advice after cancelled sale leads to court case


As soon as there’s blossom on the trees and warmer weather, another sure sign that summer is on its way will always emerge – the ‘for sale’ board.

House buying and selling can be one of life’s most stressful experiences. A recent court case that ended with one man forced to pay £385,000 compensation after pulling out of deal to buy a luxury manor house has highlighted some of the dangers.

Property law expert William Griffiths QC cancelled plans to buy the £3.6 million home after discovering damp, rot and timber decay. But after a six-year court battle, a judge ruled that he had broken his contract with the seller and ordered him to pay the compensation, as well as his own legal fees totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Melissa Dyke, a residential property solicitor with FBC Manby Bowdler, explains how you can avoid some of the house buying pitfalls:

“The phrase ‘buyer beware’ is one of the most important in house buying. As this case illustrates, surveys can throw up issues that can jeopardise a sale. Mr and Mrs Griffiths had exchanged contracts but withdrew when a survey revealed evidence of penetrating and rising damp, as well as wet and dry rot and signs of timber decay, and refused to pay the £210,000 they owed as part of a 10 per cent deposit. The sellers refused to refund the £150,000 the Griffiths’ had already paid and the dispute ended up in court.

“I would strongly recommend that surveys are carried out on a property and any further reports that the surveyor suggests before exchange of contracts. That will ensure that buyers and sellers are both aware of any issues and can negotiate accordingly or you can change your mind before exchanging contracts.

“If you’re the one selling a property, be as honest as possible about any issues you are aware of and disclose them to your buyer so they have the opportunity to make further enquiries. If there is something you don’t declare that emerges further down the line, you could be liable or face legal action from the purchasers.

“Another important thing to do is to ensure the correct searches are carried out. Don’t be afraid to ask your solicitor what the searches are for and what they cover so you have peace of mind that every avenue is being explored.

“And as soon as you have exchanged contracts you need to make sure you’re insuring your new home. Although you might not be living there yet, it’s legally yours. But always read the small print as some exclusions may apply.”

Follow this link to find out more about the residential property services offered by FBC Manby Bowdler. 

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