The monthly magazine providing news analysis and professional research for the discerning private investor/landlord

Failure to Complete

Lynsey Newman, head of property litigation and a partner at SA Law, comments

What can be done when the buyer breaks the contract, but then takes the seller to court claiming they had been misleading about the state of the property they were being sold?

This was the situation in the case of Hardy v Griffiths, in which a leading property barrister and his wife had a fractious legal battle over Laughton Manor, a £3.6m home near Lewes. The couple took the vendors to court even after they themselves had broken the contract and refused to pay the remaining deposit.

Mr and Mrs Hardy sought to secure the remainder (£210,000) of the deposit after their buyers, Mr and Mrs Griffiths, refused to pay the rest given a survey they conducted found evidence of damp and rot in the manor, even though they had already signed the contract. In court Mr and Mrs Hardy demonstrated that they were not aware of these problems, and so were able to cancel the contract and retrieve the outstanding amount from the Griffiths. It was later taken to the Court of Appeal, but Mr and Mrs Griffiths lost this final stage of their legal battle in April.

Mr and Mrs Griffiths believed they had a strong case even though in a response to their solicitors the sellers stated they didn't know of any issues with the manor, however writing that "as you will appreciate this is an old property and therefore this reply cannot be taken as a warranty as to condition".

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