Conveyancing horror stories and nightmares

Published by GlobalX on Oct 31, 2019

As its Halloween, we thought we look at some previous cases that resulted in sleepless nights for conveyancers or their clients.

Wind turbines ruin perfect view

In a well-publicised case, a couple purchasing an idyllic property in Cumbria successfully sued their conveyancer for negligence when they discovered plans were in place to develop a wind farm nearby.

The couple had chosen their dream home because of its remote location and beautiful views. After purchasing the property, they soon discovered that there would be a wind farm built just a mile from their house spoiling their view.

The conveyancers hadn't considered an environmental report as standard search at the time. Despite much local publicity around the planned wind farm including a petition to get it blocked, they never raised the issue with their client.

The courts ruled that the proposed wind farm clearly had the possibility of impacting on both the future value and the couple's enjoyment of their new home resulting in a substantial compensation settlement.

Dreamvar (UK) Ltd v Mishcon de Reya

Probably one of the most significant cases in recent times and one every conveyancer should be aware of. In case you're not here's a summary.

Identity theft is becoming a big problem for conveyancers and one that can result in large scale fraud. In the Dreamvar (UK) Ltd v Mishcon de Reya case the Claimant had fallen victim to an imposter selling a property they did not own resulting in them losing money they had borrowed

The case centres on whose is ultimately responsible for the loss? Should be the purchasing solicitor? The seller's solicitor or even the estate agent? Each has a responsibility to conduct their due diligence and verify their identification of the parties involved but identify criminal activity is becoming more complex. In this case, the fraudster had obtained a driving licence and TV licence in the actual owner's name which was certified by a solicitor, Mr Zoi and the purchaser was able to access the property for a viewing.

This is the type of case that will conveyancers' nightmares are made of. With foresight, there were obvious red flags, but this was a complicated web of deceit involving multiple parties as a deliberate method to mask and misdirect.

You can't park there

In Chesterton Commercial (Oxon) Ltd v Oxfordshire County Council [2015] the local authority was found liable for providing incorrect information regarding whether parking spaces were private land or land maintainable at public expense.

In this case, the buyer had purchased a home with parking attached only to be told three years later that this was, in fact, public land that they had no right to. This left the purchaser frustrated as the lack of parking space would negatively impact the property.

During the subsequent court case, it was revealed that the purchaser had directly queried the status of the parking space and had received a response stating it was not. It was also revealed that the local authority had been investigating t highway two this same issued two years before the purchase.

Conveyancer held liable for lost deposit

In Orientfield Holdings Limited v Bird & Bird LLP, the Court of Appeal found the conveyancer liable for the losses of their clients after it was discovered planning had been given to a multi-story development close to the desired property.

The case centred around what information is deemed material to the transaction and perils of not providing such information to a client. The Claimant had proceeded to exchange of contract on a property worth £25.75m based on the information provided to them by their conveyancer.

The conveyancer had ordered a Plansearch report after not being comfortable with the response they had received from the vendors. The report did identify that two major developments were planned within 250 metres of the property, but they failed to investigate further or bring this to the attention of their client. Subsequently, the client then became aware of the developments and decided to pull out of the deal resulting in the loss of their deposit.

During the case found that the solicitor was liable despite there being no duty to obtain the report in the first place but having done so they withheld information that would have impacted their clients' decision. This case highlights the risks of withholding information from a client even if its outside of what is strictly required.