Contracting to Buy Property Without Finance in Place is a Risky Strategy

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In a High Court case a property developer forfeited its six-figure deposit after failing to complete the £2,225,000 purchase of an office block by the date agreed.

The developer wished to convert the offices into flats. Although it did not have any firm offer of finance in place, it contracted to complete the purchase by a particular date. After the developer encountered various difficulties, the vendors agreed to extend that deadline by one month. However, after that date came and went, they rescinded the contract and retained the developer’s 10 per cent deposit.

In ruling on the matter, the Court rejected the developer’s argument that the vendors had failed in their contractual duty to transfer to it, free of charge, all copyrights and other rights in plans and reports that had previously been prepared by chartered surveyors in respect of the property. On a true construction of the contract, the Court found that that obligation would only have arisen on completion.

The developer’s plea that the vendors had also breached the sale contract by failing to afford them reasonable access to the property for the purpose of commencing the conversion works also fell on fallow ground. Even had there been such a failure, it had not caused or contributed to the collapse of the deal. In those circumstances, the Court found that the vendors had been ready, willing and able to complete the sale and granted declarations to the effect that they were entitled to rescind the contract.

Oakley & Ors v Harper McKay Developments Limited

Rex Cowell