When Luxury means Smoke, Soot and Sewage.

Between those that should pay mansion tax, to those having to pay bedroom tax or move, there are many stories along this spectrum of people who are adversely affected.

All over the country there are house renters and buyers that have a dismal experience of moving into a house that wasn’t the home they thought they were renting or buying. They have done nothing about it because unraveling the complexity of what went wrong has inhibitory costs. Renters, should be able to move on reasonably quickly, but that is not going to be assured in this protracted housing crises.

For me it was when I sold the family home I loved. That was bad; however, the next move made, was even worse. The result has been a never-ending argument between the people you need to trust when purchasing a home.

 

This Little Pig went to Market

Well I’m lucky; I still have a pile of Stones to sell. But it’s not as easy as that. Somewhere between the description of the place and the reality something went wrong. In today’s words, “its not what was written on the tin”. This in terms of a home means I can’t sell without a lot of honest disclosure. Which means a considerable price reduction or spending money that I hadn’t budgeted for and don’t have to put things right; but I don’t want to stay here or live here through a rebuilding upheaval. In a nutshell, it is a pig in a poke, where you think you’ve bought something quite valuable like a piglet in a sack, but on opening the sack there’s a puppy.

My puppy, meant it wasn’t the newly refurbished luxury the sales marketing promised, but a life of dealing with smoke, soot and sewage, water ingress. All this came from a notable national estate agent who professed to match people with property with a recommendation highly acclaiming the local developer.

There are people cleverer than me, would be expert in dealing with the issues, and better off than me who’d have the resource to take action: – their reaction? Surprisingly, is to do nothing. They bite the bullet and just get on with it; they understand the anguish of taking further action. They make a value judgment, a reappraisal to either stay and put up with it or to cut the losses.

But with only myself as resource and my now beleaguered and abused friends, what to do, and how can it be unraveled?

Merry-Go-Round

Property and land law are a specialist area. Citizens Advice Bureau facing cut backs is no longer able to offer help in this instance. Trading Standards deals with fraud and products. Legal profession pro bono is no longer offered and has gone the way of state funded legal representation. Building control and planning control has no remit. There is RIC’s for surveying and the property ombudsmen for estate agents. Then there’s court. The court likes dialogue and resolution between the parties; after all they don’t want to see you in court. And if you can’t achieve dialog, there is, litigation, but how and where? High Court, County Court, Magistrates Court, fast track, multitrack, possibly self-representation. Litigation in person is quickly fading away, due in part with the lay misunderstanding of the courts own complex system and the ever-increasing cut backs. Courts have been pressed by cases being badly presented or not pertinent to law. This means cases can be struck out not only for the litigant in person but also for advocates.

Round and Round Again.

The estate agent claims it is the best developer in the area; therefore it’s the surveyor’s fault. The surveyor claims a decorative cover up by the developer. The developer says, it was the contractor he employed or the surveyor. The conveyance solicitor says claim on your household assurance. Household assurance say’s claim on the conveyance solicitor, or its between remedial work or surveyor. The ombudsman for property says there was nothing wrong with selling this pup, all the boxes have been ticked and the developer signed it off, even if the the historic feature quoted twice in the sales brochure was demolished. Trading standards says there was nothing fraudulent. Planning and building control says work was illegal, but they have no remit, and land registry are saying nothing, after all the court may think the removal of a historic feature on the boundary is only trivial. There isn’t anyone who is culpable. Only me.

Would anyone knowingly inflict such an outcome on him or herself? Whilst living here, freezing, in smoke, soot and sewage and only myself to blame, I stopped living and learnt a lot about court cases. There was the “Putney Slab” an incorrectly built extension (1), there was “The Dog Garden” where paving stones had been removed (2). Lane Fox didn’t measure acreage (3), and Donoghue wrongly thought she was drinking beer when really it was a snail(4). Then the seminal case of Headly v Byrne (5), were you should be able to place reliance on anyone reliable. Ah, reliance… does that include reliance on the housing knowledge of developer/vendors and estate agents, after all housing is their business? But this is slipping from contract to common law. More on this later.

Caveat Emptor – Buyer Beware

Between the different bodies it has been difficult to understand, or to attribute the course of action. Brushed aside with ‘caveat emptor’, my dealing with an avalanche of disasters has been met with dismissiveness that is inappropriate for the havoc caused by a constant stream of emergencies. Loss of a lifetime of personal belongings and loss of a life lived, now there is no reason for living here, my personal property damage to an extent that is irreversible, my ability to support my family rendered to naught. With confidence shattered, feeling extremely vulnerable and with no courage left for selling and buying or looking ahead to setting up a home. So caveat emptor, buyer beware it is, the phrase that is quoted retrospectively that would be better placed prominently on all house sale particulars, like the warning on cigarettes that they can seriously damage your health.

Ideology, Altruism, Socialism or Capitalism

All means of housing people is socially important. If the renting generations of the last decades ever manage to get themselves into a position to purchase a home, they need to buy with security. If Thatcher’s home dwellers right to buy council property, a laudable premise of everyone owning their own home, then home dwellers rights to buy private rented property on the same terms should exist. Developers shouldn’t have a right to tosh out housing stock, then with estate agents move it on for inflated profits and rents. It’s not a social service they are performing, but a disingenuous removal of people’s ability to take on their own house and adapt it to their own needs. What then is missing, what should the protection be between estate agent, developer, surveyor, conveyance, private landlords and the public they should serve, where does culpability lie when things go wrong?

The relationship of developer who pays for the agent to sell his property should not negate responsibility of the agent to the buyer. The buyer is in a position of relying on the agent for fair description. The agent has the knowledge of property. The agent has knowledge of developing and the developers of housing in the local area. For decades agents, developers, and financing have gone under the radar as house sharks have plied their trade on a fundamental right in life, that of a home.

Summary

People renting from landlords should have the opportunity to buy their home on favourable terms, whether rented in the public or private sector.

Developers penalised for land banking with compulsory purchase as Labour has promised (6).

Land lords should not have favourable tax advantages presently enjoyed and rents should be controlled by local councils.

A percentage of agents profits  channeled to local councils for social housing.

All house developers should offer warrantee under the house building scheme.

Agents and property consultants should have indemnity for developer clients.

References

Whilst several court cases have been shoehorned into a single paragraph it should be mentioned that any case should be read in its entirety for a comprehensive understanding. Cases that are simple will resolve before reaching court.

(1) (1)Mr. Stephen West (2) Dr. Carol West v Ian Finlay & Associates [2013] EWHC 868 (TCC)
(2) Taylor v Hamer [2002] EWCA Civ. 1130
(3) Edward McKiim Lyell McCullagh v Lane Fox and Partners [1995] EWCA Civ 8
(4) Donoghue v Stevenson [1931] UKHL 3, 1932 SC (HL) 31, [1932] UKHL 100, [1932] AC 562
(5) Hedley Byrne & Co Ltd v Heller & Partners [1963] 1 Lloyd?s Rep 485, [1964] AC 465, [1963] UKHL 4, [1963] 3 WLR 101, [1963] 2 All ER 575
(6) http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/jun/21/ed-miliband-developers-hoarding-land

2 thoughts on “When Luxury means Smoke, Soot and Sewage.

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