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Hi thanks for your question. My name isXXXXX can answer this for you.
You can keep the deposit once you have a legally binding agreement in place. You don't necessary need to sign a written contract to have a binding agreement.
If you have agreement in emails that you have an agreement, then it doesn't necessarily need to be signed at all. This would be as good as having a signed agreement.
It has to be clear though that you both intended to enter into the agreement on the terms of the agreed document.
So they paid a deposit of £6k, with a commitment (by email) to pay the balance of £14k in Jan. Is that considered legally binding?
Well, it sounds like it to me.
It's sensible to have the email trail reviewed by a solicitor if you're thinking of suing for the £14k balance, but otherwise, it'll be a small claims matter if he sued to recover the £6k. Hence, the point is that the loser does not pay legal costs, so no point in incurring legal costs for small claims if you can avoid it as they're effectively wasted costs because you can't recover them.
I'm unlikely to pursue the 14k. But I don't want to return any of the 6k.
Are there specific points of contract law that I can quote?
Currently, they have appointed solicitors to attempt to get a refund
Nothing specific, no. It's simply a case of there being an agreement, which you have to interpret from the emails themselves.
Does this answer your question for you?
Final point - do I need to have disclosed (in advance) that the deposit is NOT refundable? Or is it a simple matter that he 'reneged' on the agreement, by not paying the balance, hence deposit is forfeited, etc?
If you agree it's not refundable, then brilliant, that makes it clear. But where you don't say, then there assumption is that it's not refundable, because you haven't agreed that it will be reunded.
OK, that answers the questions. Very helpful, thanks. Bye.
Thank you! Have a good weekend.