You Cant Back Out of Property Purchase Contracts

Contracts for the sale of property are generally written in stone and that is one good reason why conveyancing requires great care and is not for amateurs. In one case, a couple who exchanged contracts to purchase a £3.6 million home, but later backed out of the deal, ended up forfeiting their deposit and having to pay damages.

Following the exchange, a surveyor’s report was said to have revealed evidence of penetrating and rising damp, as well as wet and dry rot and signs of timber decay affecting the property. As a result, the prospective purchasers, couple A, who had already paid £150,000 towards the 10 per cent deposit, did not complete the transaction.

After the would-be vendors, couple B, launched proceedings, a judge found couple A in breach of contract. They had agreed to purchase the property in the condition it was in at the time of exchange. Couple B were entitled to retain the £150,000 and were awarded damages to reflect the outstanding £210,000 of the deposit. Couple A were also ordered to pay very substantial legal costs.

Before the Court of Appeal, couple A argued that they had not received a fair hearing due to late disclosure of evidence. It was also submitted that penetrating damp was a structural defect in the property and that the damages award was excessive and amounted to an unlawful penalty. However, in refusing permission to appeal, the Court found that couple A’s challenge to the judge’s decision stood no realistic prospect of success.