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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
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Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I purchased a property (Vicarage) from the church 4 years

Customer Question

I purchased a property (Vicarage) from the church 4 years ago and the contract contained a restrictive clause preventing me from builder additional houses on the plot. Last year I approached the church to see if they would remove the clause for a fee so that I could build a detached dwelling by splitting the plot in two. They directed me to their property consultant and after a number of conversations and emails we agreed a sum ( £30k) subject to contract and dependent on me getting planning permission ( the plot in in green belt).
I obtained planning in June and went back the the church's consultant to progress to the conclusion stage. He then changed his stance on the agreement, started to ask me what I intended to do with my existing property and the new build and said that I would need to employ a surveyor to value the land ( with planning permission).
I would like to know if the written exchange where we agreed the payment amount would have any legal standing before I decide on approach.
Many thanks, David
Submitted: 4 months ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  F E Smith replied 3 months ago.

Would anyone looking at the exchange of emails construe that this was an agreement just looking at it in plain English?

Are they now asking for more money or is that what you are suspecting?

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
My assumption from the email exchange was that we had reached agreement on a figure ( he stated that it was without prejudice and subject to contract. He also stated that it had been agreed with his client ( the church). It is clear that he is now looking for more £ as he's gone from being very civil to now quoting case law at me ( Stokes vs Cambridge).
The advice that I'm seeking is regarding the "agreement" - do I have a case to keep him to the amount stated in his email?
Expert:  F E Smith replied 3 months ago.

If itwas stated to be subject to contract, then you definitelycannot rely on it. However, there is a statutory provision which clarifies even further.

The Law of Property Act 1925 and Law of Miscellaneous Provisions Act 1989 says that any agreement for property/land must be in writing and signed by the parties and although this is in writing, it is not signed by the parties.

You will be familiar with the phrase “exchange of contracts” and that is exactly the effect of exchanging signed contract is. The same philosophy would apply here.

In effect, he is able to gazump you or simply move the price.

Stokes v Cambridge is to do with a compulsory purchase of a ransom strip so to be honest, doesn’t apply here. The situation is actually somewhat more favourable for youbecause this is not compensation for compulsory purchase. The seller can charge any price he likes and you are free to accept that or not.

Of course, if he wants to much, you simply don’t go ahead and he loses everything.

You are, in effect calling his bluff as indeed he is calling yours.

I’m sorry but based upon what you have said, you would not be able to enforce the amount stated in the email.

Can I clarify anything else for you?

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
Unfortunately that confirms my thoughts on the matter. Many thanks
Expert:  F E Smith replied 3 months ago.

What you could do is tell them that the £30,000 offer stands, take it or leave it, and come back to you if ever he changes his mind.

I would make sure that whoever you were dealing with earlier is copied in on the correspondence so that they will be aware that this intervening “person” has screwed the whole job up and deprived them of £30,000by trying to push the matter to get more money out of you.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I have seen your answer and responded to it on Saturday. It's clear to me.
Thanks for your help.
David
Expert:  F E Smith replied 3 months ago.

I am pleased to have helped.

Please rate the service positive. It’s the process by which experts get paid.

We can still exchange emails. Best wishes.

FES.

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