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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 11844
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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I need help with how to proceed with a house sale where the

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I need help with how to proceed with a house sale where the buyer's solicitor will not respond to ours. It has been 4 weeks since our solicitor has had any response and the estate agents cannot reach them either. This is causing a great deal of stress as you can imagine. This all started months ago and our flat sold within a week! What can we do to get a response from the buyer's solicitor?

Hello - who is this firm of solicitors and where are they based?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I would rather not say actually, I just hoped you might have a suggestion about what I could do.

It may be the case that the Buyer has told their solicitor to go slow or put the whole thing on hold to spin it out. The only pressure you can put on the buyer is to write to the solicitor and tell them to return the contract because you are going to look for another buyer.

Although that puts pressure on them, what you can do of course is simply leave them in limbo and look for another buyer regardless. Tell the agent that there is no point in proceeding with this buyer because they are clearly wasting your time and that the agent should continue to market the property.

To be honest, they shouldn’t stop marketing the property just because there is an offer because they are under a duty to continue to submit offers to you.

I’m a bit confused why you say that your buyer is waiting for the housebuilder to pull out because surely the buyer is buying your property?

I also don’t know how or why you have invested an extra £4000 in a new build property without actually buying it.

Is this not just a straightforward sale of your house to a (noncooperative) buyer and you are buying a new build? Am I missing something?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
We are buying a new build and so have a limited time to complete. The buyer knows this and is hoping the housebuilder will pull out on us so she doesn't have to pay her fees. We only discovered on the day of exchange that the freehold to the flat is now with the Crown. It took the buyer's solicitor weeks and weeks to inform our solicitor of this. (They say they only reviewed the file every couple of weeks and were not willing to do any more). The secretary of the management team of which 7 other of us are the "directors" lost the freehold due to mismanagement. We knew nothing of this and have just been paying our "service charge". We have never had any meetings. We have now challenged him and he is saying he has mental health problems and has just let his flat (he lives in the same complex) and is moving away! Our solicitor made an offer to the buyer of £1500 to cover costs in getting the freehold back but her solicitor advised her against it. Then we discovered Bona Vacantia which would be much cheaper to get back the freehold and so we offered to pay an indemnity fee and to cover the cost of the £1000 divided by 8 of us to regain the freehold. She verbally rejected this to the estate agents but they would not tell the house builder, because presumably they wanted their fee as well (they are used by the house builder to sell buyers' properties). We paid for upgrades to the new house we are buying and this had to be paid up front, hence our "investment". My husband has just had a phone call while I am typing this and it would appear that finally the buyer has agreed with the estate agent to formally tell her solicitor to pull out. I think that may have been because I had said I was going to tell the house builder today what I had been told by the estate agent earlier about her pulling out and that would look bad for the estate agent (they have so far been telling them that there is still a chance the other party might still buy our property). The whole thing smacks of collusion! We couldn't pull out you see because we would lose every penny we have paid for upgrades. Even now I don't yet know where we now stand with this. We have now lost our little house with a little garden and are heartbroken, but we have had several weeks now to grieve so to speak and at this moment I feel nothing but relief it appears to be over. Now we have to struggle to get this freehold back but will not be able to face that for a while, so will be staying put in the flat for the foreseeable future. I had reached the end of my tether yesterday but if I had waited 24 hours I would have had a resolution with having to contact you.

There is a lot more to this than your initial question. A fantastic amount more. I am not surprised that this is in abeyance.

If the freehold is passed to the Treasury Solicitor under Bona Vacantia then the wheels are not going to turn quickly. The Treasury Solicitor will have to decide whether the lease is worth anything or whether he wants to disclaim. Nonetheless, he’s going to want his costs paid.

If it was just an absent landlord, then the indemnity policy would have been fine but it’s the involvement of the Crown which makes it more problematical unless it’s possible to get an indemnity in respect which I doubt very much. You need to speak to your solicitor about that. However even if your solicitor does get an indemnity in respect of that, there is no guarantee that the buyer will accept it.

I don’t know whether the solicitor advised you not to pay any money upfront in respect of the upgrades to the new house because obviously, if you fail to complete, you would lose that. However unless the house has been finished and all your upgrades added, there is no reason why you should not get that money back.

I’m not certain what else I can add that I’m happy to answer any specific questions you may have

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