First post to the forum and well, what a mess. I think I've posted this in the right forum as there is no mortgage involved in this.
When I found myself in the incredible situation I'm in, which I will expand on in a moment, I had a look on various help forums to see what information I could find on what happens when a property sale fails to complete after contracts have been exchanged.
I found lots of posts along the lines of "in 20 years of conveyancing/being an EA I have never seem this happen" etc.
So... Let's see what the experts here make of this.
It's quite a lot to get through, but I suspect the devil is I the detail.
Around Feb this year I was selling my house due to separating from my partner who wanted her share of the house. The only way to finance this was to sell and downsize so reluctantly I did what I had to do.
My estate agent, ill call them SW, found me a buyer, an offer was accepted.
After looking around, I found a park home property that I liked which I could buy outright with my proceeds and the thought of being mortgage free rather appealed.
I then discovered that you were supposed to be fifty to live in this residential park, and I was just about to turn 49. I should stress at this point, I have not viewed any property, spoken to anyone or made any offers, I was simply aware of the property and the rule.
The next thing I did was to office at the front of the park to enquire about how flexible this rule actually was.
I spoke to a lady in the office who thought it probably was flexible but she said I needed to speak to someone with more authority than her. So I made an appointment to come back a couple of days later and on a scorching hot day, i spoke to a gentleman we will refer to as Brian. Brian introduced himself to me as the park manager.
We discussed my age and the fact I was interested in the two properties that were for sale, and he told me the age limit was arbitrary and was there to make sure that no young people with children etc moved in, and having met me he was perfectly happy.
A few days later, I went to the vendors estate agent, ill call them FS and explained that I was interested in the properties, that I was aware of the age limit, that I had been to the site and spoken to Brian the manager and he was happy.
Estate agent FS arranged a viewing of the two properties and said he would confirm the age issue.
I went to view both properties about a week later one very dark rainy evening and a few days later went back to FS and made an offer.
Unfortunately, my first choice was then at this point taken off the market due to illness, so I made an offer on the second property.
FS subsequently informed me the offer had been accepted by the owner, Ill call the owner Mr I from here on, and that he (FS) was now happy with the age issue.
In May, when I was expecting to exchange i was suddenly informed out of the blue by FS that Mr I was looking at a different property and the whole process had to be started again at his end. I found out through a third party that Mr I has done this before.
I made it clear that I was unhappy with this as I was part of a chain.
Mr I switched again back to the original property, but for reasons unknown to me other than it was something to do with his ongoing purchase related to the fact he had switched twice, it was still taking an age. It was now June
My own buyers were becoming impatient and threatening to pull out if we had not completed by the end of June, and not wanting to lose my purchaser, I put everything I own into storage, put my dog with a dog sitter and planned to move onto a friend's sofa for a few weeks.
My completion came and went at the end of June, so I said goodbye to my home and I began to sofa surf.
All the paperwork for my purchase was in place at my end, everything was signed and ready and all of my money from the sale of my house plus the difference which I had borrowed from my family was in the solicitors client account. We were still waiting for Mr I.
In the first week of July I was informed that we would be ready to exchange contracts the following day.
The following day it never happened and I was told that it was due to some important documentation that had been forgotten by the vendors solicitor. Exchange was now a few weeks away again...
In the last week of July we finally exchanged contracts and set a completion on Thursday the 4th of August.
I was getting excited, looking forward to a new home in a new community and getting my dog back.
What happened next is well... Words fail me..
Luckily I have recently installed an app on my phone that records all incoming and outgoing phone calls. Every single one of the following phone calls is recorded in its entirety.
Wed 3rd August. 6pm:
I receive an email from my solicitor stating that the vendors solicitor had found out I have a dog and a car, do they have my permission to pass on my personal details.
This seems odd to me. I am allowed to have a dog and a car, I don't know why this is an issue and everyone has had all my information, in writing, on all forms since day one. Amazingly the lady who sent me the email is still in the office, I manage to contact her and give my permission. I kind of detect from the way she is talking to me there is something she is not telling me.
Thursday 4th August, 10.34am:
I receive an email from my solicitor stating they have confirmation to proceed, they have a final completion statement from the other side. There is an outstanding payment of just over £150 for the months ground lease which I need to pay as the lease is being transferred to my name. I transfer the money, I ring them to confirm and thank them.
Thursday 4th August 1pm:
I go to the estate agent to see if they have heard anything and to hopefully collect the keys. They have heard nothing and can't hand the keys over yet.
Thursday 4th August 1.30pm:
I get a phone call from my solicitor telling me the park owners have put a stop on completion. I am advised to go to the residential park and speak to Brian the manager.
On arrival at the park I ring Brian the manager and get through to someone else who tells me Brian has resigned.
Over the course of the next few hours I end up speaking to my solicitor numerous times and a gentleman ill call Mark, who is a South England regional manager for the company who owns the residential park who from this point forward is the official spokesman and point of contact for the park owners.
In these conversations, which have all been recorded, I learn the following catalogue of errors and points of information as I understand them.
- Brian the manager and Mr I, who was desperate to sell his property as its been on the market for a considerable time, are one and the same person.
- Brian I, was not a manager, he was a gardener who had no authority at all. He has misrepresented his position to me to assist selling his property.
- The lady in the office was another resident who has never been employed by the park owners and should not at any point have been I the office.
- The email I received the previous evening was a result of the fact that Brian I, or more correctly his solicitors, were legally bound by the lease agreement to inform the park owners of the sale and the park owners would then process my information and application along to take over the lease and move into the property. This process legally takes a minimum of 21 working days so should have been done at the very least a month beforehand.
What had in fact happened was Brian I's solicitor never have the park owners this notice or any information about me until just before close of business on the 3rd of August. Less than 24 hours before we completed.
- Both my solicitor, and the vendors solicitor should not have exchanged contracts without this vital step of the lease purchase/transfer being carried out.
- Both my solicitor and the vendors solicitor are at fault for ignoring the fact that the age limit for the sale is not arbitrary, is stated on the lease documents and the fact that I am only 49, not fifty.
- The park owners are not prepared to be flexible on the age limit, I am 7 months too young. Mark the area manager makes it very clear to me that, and I quote, "if this has anything to do with me, I will not allow this to happen because you are too young and it is wrong".
- I am not going to get the keys, the sale is not going to complete the park owners are going to take their full 21 working days to process my application, after which they will accept or decline.
- I am told that no money has changed hands officially, but it has been transferred and the vendors solicitors actually have all my money in their account. (£143000)
- There has been a suggestion that Brian I's solicitor is going to sue me...
After a very sleepless night, as soon as the offices open im on the phone to my solicitor.
My solicitors is a very very large company and over the last 8 months my purchase has been dealt with at different stages by at least four separate people and now I find its been passed to a gentleman called Nick who I am told is a senior partner.
Friday the 5th 9am:
I'm on the phone to Nick.
He tells me (and again all my calls are recorded) and I quote, "that I have been shafted by Brian" I and I have a massive strong case for legal misrepresentation but leave it with him to see what he can salvage.
The park owners are exercising their legal right to take 21 days because contracts should not have exchanged without this.
The vendors solicitor still currently holds all my money and he is going to see if he can get it back, however there is a huge question mark over this because there is a possibility the sale could be forced through and I would then own a property to which I have no right of entry, but then I can sue for costs...
This nightmare just keeps on giving.
After a very sleepless weekend, on Monday morning I went to the CAB who advised me that my best course of action was to go and ask for my money back and then if it wasn't forth coming make a complaint to the independent ombudsmen.
Around 11.30 Monday 8th august,
I walked into my solicitors and asked to speak to Nick. He took me into an interview room and we discussed the situation. I put my phone on the table and the whole following conversation was recorded.
He kept pursuing the point that I have a case against Brian I for misrepresentation and against his solicitor for not following due process and only giving the park owners the lease application the day before completion and then exchanging without this process complete.
I chose at this point in the conversation not to point out that surely both parties are equally as guilty for exchanging contracts before due process was complete?
I should stress that at this point I have not yet asked for my money back, but I was about to. However before I do, and without any prompting, Nick tells me that late on Friday he asked the vendors solicitor for my money back, and they instantly returned it by bacs payment and that it will be returned to me in full on Tuesday.
I asked him about the fees for his company that I thought I was arguably being unfairly charged thousands of pounds given the series of mistakes, and he offered me fifty % of all fees back.
As I was trying to clarify exactly what this included, he said "you know what? I'm a nice guy, all costs, 100% will be waived and refunded. We should have the money back tomorrow as its coming by bacs, and we can pay it straight into your account."
He then told me that I have dodged a bullet because if he was the vendors solicitor he would have forced the completion through as an associated purchase because he had the money, so I was very l lucky to have had such a lucky escape and the vendors solicitor had chosen to refund my money.
He also told me that now I've been given all my money and all my costs back, i have the option to walk away from this now.
If I do, Brian I may try to sue me but it's unlikely because 1. he basically doesn't have a leg to stand on due to his misrepresentation and 2. The exchange of contracts should never have taken place given the incomplete documentation and so these contracts wouldnt stand up in a court of law.
Tuesday the 9th mid morning
I've an email and a subsequent recorded phone call confirming my money has been returned and all of it, including all refunded solicitors fees have been paid to me via bacs so will be in my account by Friday.
Tuesday 9th 12.00
I've just had a phone call from Mark the residential park area manager saying to me that he's found out some further information on me and wanted me to confirm whether I own a certain type of commercial vehicle (a taxi), I confirmed I do.
And he's found out that I own 7 motorbikes and would I confirm this.
I don't. I own two. One is a road touring bike, the other is a restoration project and I confirm this to him.
He's told me that in addition to clearly breaking the rule on age, I'm also breaking the rule on not being allowed commercial vehicles, I haven't told them I own a motorcycle, Im not allowed to own a motorcycle, apparently I'm only allowed 1 vehicle, I have 4 (1 taxi, 1 private car and 2 bikes) and the more he looks into me the more rules I'm breaking.
I find this odd because at no point have I been made aware of the fact that I'm not allowed to have a taxi. My job has always been a taxi driver and its never been a secret. At no point have I seen any rule that says I'm not allowed to own a motorcycle and no one has ever asked me if I own one.
I find it interesting that he's obviously looking into me and my affairs from some unknown source, and finding out half truths. It would be interesting to know where on earth he got the idea that I own 7 motorbikes, or actually even why he's looking into things like this anyway.
Tuesday 9th August 4.45
I phoned my solicitor to double check my money has been transferred i am told that that the bacs payment was changed and I am told
"Well, there was a bit of a fuss in the office about getting this money to you. I don't know what you've done, but whatever it is you've done it right. Your money is coming into your account tomorrow morning by TT and we are refunding literally everything including waiving all transfer fees"
I then her and ask "so where does this now leave me. Can I just now walk away from this farce and am I free to start looking for a new home?"
She answers "yes you can. Enjoy."
So as a final summary, after the catalogue of cock ups:
The vendors solicitor has refunded all my money in full without question.
My solicitor has refunded 100% of all fees without question.
Both of these things suggest to me that they know they have done something wrong and I can almost hear them in the office trying to get rid of me.
It's looking fairly certain that my application for the lease on this property isn't going to be accepted, I've already broken the age rule, the no taxis rule, the no motorbikes rule and the number of vehicles rule and I haven't even completed yet.
But bearing in mind that so far I've been lied to and misled by the vendor, messed around by the vendor with his switching of properties, had the completion blocked by the park owners who have made it pretty clear that my 11th hour application is going to fail and given that all my money and fees have been refunded from the solicitors on both sides and I still homeless, I'm ready to just walk away from this mess.
In fact I think my mind is made up
So if anyone has made it through this far, there are a number of lessons to learn.
Always get things I writing.
Don't complete on a sale without a purchase.
And if anyone has any advice for me, I'm all ears because I'm worried this isn't over yet.