Property News & Views
Couple being sued for £300,000 over property enquiry. —
25th Nov 2019
The below article from the Daily Telegraph illustrates the importance of answering questions about your property when selling. If you are ever in doubt please check with your solicitor as the repercussions of an incorrect or misleading reply can be devastating – as outlined below.
A couple from Oxfordshire are being sued for £300,000 after they failed to tell the prospective buyers of their £1m country home about plans for a neon-lit American-style drive-thru and 61-room motel just down the road.
The buyers had been looking for "the right house" for six years before finding the barn conversion near Buckland Village, and were so sure they had found their perfect home they even bought a horse in preparation for moving in.
But they say they were "horrified" to learn of plans to build ‘Mollie's Motel and Diner’ only after the contracts had been exchanged and have taken the owners to court.
Giving evidence at Central London County Court, the buyer said she had been "excited" after spotting the property, Lake Barn, in 2017, as it came with over three acres of paddock.
They were told by the owners in the house sellers' questionnaire that they did not know of any nearby development which might affect the picturesque house, which sits on the bank of a lake on a former dairy farm.
It was only after contracts were exchanged that they learned of the large-scale redevelopment of a former Little Chef nearby on the A420.
Mollie's Motel and Diner has since been built by the owners of Soho House and was opened at a star-studded reception attended by Jeremy Clarkson and Paloma Faith in January this year. Changes to the plans resulted in it having 79 rooms, not the 61 originally approved.
Acting for the buyers, barrister Ewan Paton said the sellers had made "false, misleading and/or inaccurate pre-contact statements" which entitled the buyer to tear up the contract and be refunded their £108,000 deposit.
They are also due over £200,000 compensation from the sellers, having spent money in connection with the aborted purchase, including on new furniture and a horse, he claimed.
"There was a major 'proposal to develop land nearby' of which the sellers not only knew, but which they had personally opposed in vehement terms, specifically in their capacity as nearby owners and residents affected by it," the buyer said.
The couples agreed a price of £1.085m in November 2017, but the sale process dragged on into the new year and the buyers became aware of the development.
In his evidence, the buyer, 53, a successful property developer, told the judge he had eventually learned of the project by mid-March and was "horrified".
The sellers insist they did nothing wrong in not mentioning the motel plans.
At the time they filled in the property sellers' questionnaire, they did not consider that the development would have an effect on their home, their barrister, Andy Creer, said.
The motel is not visible from the barn itself - only from the paddock area, which is separated from their home by a few yards - and they believed the form they were filling in only applied to the house, she argued.
The sellers say it was they who validly rescinded the contract - for non-completion - and that the buyer’s £108,000 deposit is forfeited.
They also argue that the buyers £300,000 claim is too high, since it was their own fault that they bought a horse and furniture before the sale went through.
The barn and paddock have since sold to another buyer very recently for the reduced price of £985,000, the court heard.
The case continues.