In 2021 my elderly parents bought a flat in a new development by Martin Oppenheimer which was being marketed by the estate agent Connells. They paid an extra £2,000 for a parking place. On the reservation agreement, issued by Connells, the parking provision is circled, and my parents were given a key fob to access the car park. A year later, my father received a parking ticket while on the site and was informed that he did not have parking registered to his property. It transpires the parking space was omitted from the lease, as Connells did not include it in the memorandum of sale sent to the conveyancing solicitor.
The company has offered a goodwill payment of £1,000 for this shortfall. Martin Oppenheimer has not responded to my inquiries about buying a space. My father trusted that the legal documents were correct and, since he was given access to parking, and parked without hindrance for over a year, he did not have reason to question them.
This is a baffling and upsetting situation, and neither Connells nor the developer emerges well from it. However, your parents do bear some of the responsibility. Purchasers have to sign the legal documents, including the lease, and it is essential they first read them and flag up any oddities. Conveyancers should also query any anomalies and, if your solicitor was sent the reservation agreement along with the memorandum of sale, they should have questioned the fact that the parking in the former was not included in the latter.
Connells, after its investigation of your complaint, admitted that its staff failed to transpose the parking element on to the memorandum of sale. It can’t account for why, as parking was not included in the lease, a key fob was issued. This remains a mystery. Connells says: “We have apologised for our administrative error. The responsibility to ensure all details of the contract are correct lies between the buyer, their conveyancer and the developer.”
Property law specialist Lara Nyman, from solicitors Seddons, confirms that caveat emptor (buyer beware) underlies any purchase, especially when buying off-plan.
“Remedies will depend on the documentation provided, and the representations made, whether verbal or in writing,” she says. “The reservation agreement is no more than an agreement by the developer to sell a plot to the buyer within a particular time frame, so it’s unlikely this will give rise to a claim against the developer. Marketing literature and sales memorandums will almost certainly contain some attempt to limit liability, and to shift on to the purchaser the obligation to ensure legal documents are accurate.”
Your parents could sue their solicitor, but this could be expensive, so they would have to be sure they had adequate evidence to prove negligence or misrepresentation. It would be more cost effective to take their complaint about Connells to the Property Ombudsman, but there’s no guarantee they would be awarded more than the £1,000 already offered. It might be less. I’m so sorry I can’t achieve a resolution, but I hope this will serve as a warning to all of us never to take contracts on trust.
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