Farmhouse buyer complains to ombudsman after finding he is short of two acres

The buyer of a farmhouse advertised as being set in approximately eight acres of land says he is complaining to the Property Ombudsman after discovering that the land measured just under six acres.

Andrew Watson bought the property in September 2015 through agent Yorkshire’s Finest.

Watson, who also owns a further parcel of land measuring 5.5 acres, would be eligible for the Rural Payments Scheme if he owns a total of 12 acres. However, after having had his land at Cumberworth measured, he is short of that.

Watson found out that the Cumberworth land was over two acres less than was advertised by measuring it with software app Promap. The app, which uses Ordnance Survey data, found the land was 5.967 acres.

Watson said he was furious and had been told by other local agents that they would check the area of land on a property before putting it up for sale.

However, he said that while he had contacted TPO, he did not hold out much hope of receiving any compensation “as it seems nobody knows who is actually at fault”.

Justin Dugdale, director of Yorkshire’s Finest, said: “In correspondence to Mr Watson, I drew his attention to the fact that our sales brochure made clear that the land had not been formally measured. This he was aware of before he purchased the property some years ago.

“I am entirely satisfied my company had acted properly.”

There are some interesting comments on the story in the local newspaper, raising a number of issues.

Is this a case of Caveat Emptor versus Consumer Protection Regulations?

http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/wheres-missing-two-acres-asks-13644092

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35 Comments

  1. Chris Wood

    On the information above, the agent concerned appears to have badly misled clients and using a disclaimer as a defence is no defence. The buyer made a transactional decision based on the information supplied. It is an agents legal duty to ensure that they advertise a property correctly and take reasonable care to check their facts.

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    1. Bless You

      Tough luck,,,he should be suing his solictor. With your attitude chris you open the flood gates to all nut jobs…if we were on 6% i might think about it.

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      1. Chris Wood

        I don’t make the laws, I just interpret them as best I can, the same as everyone else.  The RICS have a useful guide. Sections 5 – 7 in particular explain why I hold the opinion I expressed above.

         

        http://www.rics.org/Global/Info_alert_finalproofs.pdf

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    2. aSalesAgent

      I disagree Bless You that agents should be allowed to slip whatever they like in a description and expect to be protected by a simple disclaimer. Reasonable care should be taken and ‘approximately eight acres’ was way off of the reported plot size.

      However, in this instance it seems to me that the agent and the buyer’s conveyancer were both to blame for this. Separately to whatever the agent writes in their small print, they should have encouraged Mr Watson to carry out his own checks to satisfy himself. The buyer’s solicitor should have confirmed the size of the plot if it was so important to their client and they should have made sure Mr Watson understood.

      Anyway, sorry to go off-topic, but: do agents here use the term ‘property details’ or ‘property particulars’. Just wondered if one is more correct than the other.

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  2. agentxxx87

    and this wasn’t picked up during conveyancing ?

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    1. AgencyInsider

      Why would it be picked up? Not the job of the conveyancer to check. In fact I have never, ever, known a conveyancer/solicitor to actually visit the subject property in a transaction.

      Very foolhardy of the agent not to formally measure the area.

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      1. Bless You

        Well what is the job of the conveyencer???   They act for the buyer , agents act for the vendor.   Its this strange nuance that nobody seems to understand and thats why media mislead public all the time. I know we have a duty etc etc..but really???

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        1. mattstephens38

          The conveyancer has no knowledge of the precise details of the property other than the title plan which the client would have confirmed is correct or not – you would have also assumed they would have had a survey conducted?

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      2. Chris Wood

        It is the solicitors’ job to check that the client is purchasing what they believe they are purchasing within a contract. The solicitor should very much have acted to protect the client in this case.

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  3. Essjaydee51

    Chris you come out with some good points most of the time, sometimes you come across as a niggling schoolboy and once or twice as though you have a broomstick where the sun, you get my meaning, you have a lot of support on here but don’t let it go to your head.

    Sometimes you need some common sense in making a decision, sure the agent should have checked but he used the disclaimer and brought this to the buyers attention and if that isn’t sufficient then what is the point of having disclaimers!

    you will most likely come back with smart by the book rules but there has to be some acceptance sometimes of a person having tried and yes where was his surveyor or his own bit of DD and pro map measuring or his solicitor during the conveyance?

    im now going to wait for your smart official by the book comment that I’m sure you have lived by all your working life! But please lighten up a bit a good head of a body sees the black white and sometimes understands and accepts a bit of grey.

    Oh and before you say it, if I was the buyer I would be peeved but I wouldn’t have accepted being told 8, I would have checked as acreage can be elusive as I’m sure this buyer is aware of, after all it wasn’t his first piece of land, was it!

     

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    1. Hillofwad71

      Easy

       

      It was incumbent on the Agent to have measured the land otherwise he should  have  just put a red line on a map .Surely he would have  inspected the land himself  prior to marketing and he isn’t much of an agent if he can’t tell the difference visually between 8 acres and 5.97 acres

      He is a professional and despite a disclaimer any ordinary member of the public would assume that such an important figure  which bears on its value would be correct

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      1. Bless You

        Buyer Beware…..  wise words made up in the 17 centuary i expect…rather then have milliions spent on legal fee’s and stupid conversations..these 2 words would stop all confusion….   bless you

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      2. aSalesAgent

        The estate agent at Yorkshire’s Finest may have known Hillofwad71, but their client (the Seller) might have insisted they owned 8 acres and this to the agent would sound better than marketing just 5.967 acres…

        Reading the responses on this thread, clearly some agents feel they can write whatever they want in the description and then simply point to the small print if any complaints arise.

        What we include in the description needs to be reasonably accurate. Lumping on 2 acres is wrong.

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    2. Chris Wood

      ‘The book’ is there to protect good agents as much as it is the public. I’m well aware I’m a marmite character and, as I say above, I don’t make the law, I just aim to work within it, I make mistakes the same as everyone else and hold my hands up when I do.

      If the laws we are all bound to work within are evenly and properly enforced, I have always maintained that over a third of all agents would close down within months leaving the public better off and, professional agents better off, as well as driving up service standards.

      I don’t know the agent involved and it was a silly mistake but, one that could easily, and should, have been avoided. Good agents prosper when poor agents are properly regulated and laws properly enforced.

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  4. J1

    It costs £3.00 to pull a title plan down from the land registry and another £10 to use promap.

    An agent that claims to be the finest, and deals with better properties should know how to use basic tools.

    The buyer has clearly paid as much as £80,000 too much for this place given the errror.

    He should be compensated.

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    1. sah1966

      It’s only £1 to check the area on Promap. This agent has no defence and as you say, claiming to be the finest is a joke.

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  5. aidan branch

    If we quote 8 acres there should be 8 acres. It is easy to check. If the property had three bedrooms and we suggest there are four then we are at fault – there is no difference with the land – disclaimers are not worth the paper they are written on.

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    1. Bless You

      Yes but what if there is a lake in that land, or a tree, or some voles  that the buyer cant put his sheep on…..WHERE DOES IT STOP.????   We are delighted to offer this property with 8 acres – vole hill  and a bit of a lake and something else that we didnt know was there…. ah lets stop putting any detail on our details becuase stupid street will pick holes in it.

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      1. Hillofwad71

        LOL Are you seriously  suggesting that  it would be appropriate  to misout a feature such as a lake when marketing land There might be riparian laibilities   Also if there was a covenant on farmland preventing  keeping  livestock which quite frankly one would not reasonably expect that the agent hadnt  bothered  to check the report and    title for restrictive covenants thats ok too?

        or maybe missing out  rights of way and various  easements in favour of adjoining landowner are unimportant  for selling land or affect value ? Seriously have you  had any training?

        What do you suggest  for marketing .Lump  of land  for sale -offers invited?

        Dont forget you have a duty of care to your client, the vendor to check these things

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      2. aSalesAgent

        It’s up to the agent how much they want highlight in the particulars (e.g. property for sale VOLE FREE), but what they write they should be reasonably sure of. For example, I don’t list in my star features that a property is free of Japanese knotweed. If the buyer asks if there is or not then I tell them to check themselves. I wouldn’t offer information in the particulars without checking  for accuracy myself.

        A disclaimer that reads “we might have made up everything in these particulars – it’s up to the prospective buyer to check” (or something along those lines) is not good practise.

        Surely we as agents are meant to outline what we know, or can be assumed within reason.

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  6. TheAgent48

    I remember going on a Trading Standards course many years ago regarding the Property Misdescriptions Act, where I was told in no uncertain terms, that when measuring rooms or land etc you had to be very very careful and make sure the measurements were correct.   A catchall disclaimer in this instance is certainly not going to work.

    “Our sales brochure made it clear the land had not been formally measured.”  – Oh dear so you just conjured up those figures which are likely to be 40% overestimated.  An equivalent of this would be to advertise a 6 bedroom house that only had 4 bedrooms – would an agent be in trouble for this error?  Of course.  The same applies to this substantial inaccuracy.

    “I am entirely satisfied that my company acted properly” – Yes, that maybe your opinion, however you are ultimately responsible under the Property Misdescriptions Act not to mislead the consumer.  How did you arrive at this 8 acres figure?  Perhaps you have an email from the vendor stating the property had 8 acres of land, in which case you have been misled by the vendor and maybe able to claim against him.  However as you are the “professional” you should show due diligence in the fact that the measurement has been checked by a qualified surveyor.

    Of course I wouldn’t rely on an App in this instance to measure the land accurately, that would need to be carried out by a qualified surveyor, otherwise that is like relying on Zoopla’s valuation App to value a house.

    I hope the agent is insured as he is going to lose this one and will have to pay for the cost of the additional land that the brochure stated was  available.  Furthermore, there may even be a liability to pay a proportion of the grant until such time that the buyer can obtain the land required to obtain the grant.

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    1. Certus

      I completely agree that as professionals we should be accurate and show that we have checked – this is a legal requirement of TPO. Btw; The Property Mis-descriptions Act 1991 was repealed and the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 has replaced it. This is the law we must comply with now.

       

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  7. MrSerious

    * Mr Watson said: “I was furious as the cost to have an area of land plotted is nominal, whilst we are missing two acres of land.”

    * He used an [cheap] online tool called MagicMaps [AFTER purchase]

    * Mr Watson was “missing” the equivalent of two football pitches.

    These are from the article linked above.  Am I missing something here?  I’m not a Land Surveyor but even I think I’d be able to spot two missing football pitches!  If the ‘MagicMaps’ is so cheap and easy, why did “Businessman” Mr W himself or his surveyor not use it pre-purchase?

    If the “£80,000-worth” of land was so critical to his “minimum level of support under the Rural Payments Scheme” would not every normal “Businessman” or “SensibleMan” not check the measurements pre-purchase?

    He could easily have bought a cheap laser measurer (100m range) /tripod/board/paper/pencil and done a simple triangulation job in a couple of hours.  I accept it will not be a rectangular plot, but, on average 6 acres is only c.170 yards square.

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  8. AgencyInsider

    I am not being preachy here, as we all make mistakes and none of us have perfect knowledge, but I am shocked at some of the misconceptions about the law, and how it works, that are being expressed in these comments.

    If these are practicing estate agents making the comments – thinking you can hide behind a disclaimer; that it is the buyer/conveyancer responsibility to make sure all is as described; thinking caveat emptor has any bearing these days; and that the PMA is still in existence (!), then, with respect, I think you’d better call one of the agency training bods and get yourself on a suitable course as soon as possible.

    Otherwise you may well find yourselves in the same very uncomfortable position as the subject company in this story.

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  9. KemptownAgent

    Seems like a total ballsups by both Agent & conveyancing solicitor!

    The agent should’ve made clear to the best of their ability the accurate measurement of the property, its not a hard thing to do at all with modern technologies

    The solicitor should’ve carefully checked the LR Title documents to see the land sold with the property and brought attention to ensuring the measurement was accurate.

    What does the NAEA have to say about this? we wouldn’t see this happening with a RICS surveyor…

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    1. Chris Wood

      “What does the NAEA have to say about this? “….Don’t hold your breath

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  10. Woodentop

    This is not the first case of agents details being wrong and the agent falling foul of misrepresentation. The agent does not sell the property. They market a property for sale and find a buyer based on their marketing. It is incumbent on the agent to take due diligence and care that anything they say is correct. Chris is correct and the use of disclaimers is no defence. They are often used where they have no legal “get out of jail”. They can provide a defence in circumstances where it is reasonably accepted the agent took all possible steps to verify details are correct. Did the agent do that? Did they verbally or in writing (not a standard disclaimer) specifically confirm to the buyer that they have not been able to verify the acreage with the resources available to them and the buyer is advised to take further steps to verify acreage before instructing a conveyancer or before exchanging contracts?

     

    The conveyancer buys the property on behalf of the buyer. They are also duty bound to due care and diligence. If they told the buyer that the land has not been verified = buyer beware. If they failed to check the acreage – ooops in the firing line to. Didn’t the deeds confirm the acreage, certainly the boundaries of the parcel of land for someone to check? .. such as the buyer themselves, who in the main relies on the conveyancer to protect them.

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  11. El Burro

    It’s really worrying that so many posters on here, who seem to sell property for a living, have no idea idea of their responsibilities under the Consumer Protection Regs.

    As agents WE are responsible for what information we put out there and with Promap being around for years there’s really no excuse.

    An agent relying on disclaimers and people on here using phrases like ‘buyer beware’ makes me think some are still using Polaroid photos and an Olivetti to type their property details.

    The NAEA gets a regular pasting on here but do yourselves a favour folks, get on one of their CPR courses before it’s too late and you cop a huge fine and see your PI premiums go through the roof.

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  12. J1

    Some of the comments on here truly show why agents get a bad name.

    “Say what you want and put a disclaimer property services”, at your disposal sir…….

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  13. Anonymous Coward

    I am absolutely horrified – the PMA is now defunct, replaced with the DRACONIAN Consumer Protection Regulations which essentially boil down to “The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

    The PMA was repealed on 1st October 2013 – so this is a CPR case – get your wallet ready my good man because you WILL be paying.

    Have you people never heard of Google Earth Pro – it’s free and has tools to measure land (rectangular and irregular).   It is so good that it is often more accurate at measuring the total area of a building than many Energy Assessors!   Download it NOW for pity’s sake.   Did I say it’s free – IT’S FREE!

    Likewise, did you know that most local authorities have interactive maps…?

    No?

    Yorkshire does… http://maps.northyorks.gov.uk/connect/analyst/?mapcfg=General

    So does, Surrey, Sussex, etcetera.

    In many cases it actually shows the outlines of the Land Registry Title Plan – why are you not downloading a copy before you go out o the valuation?   It takes seconds and will make sure that you turn up with the facts.

    Did I mention that it is also free?   IT’S FREE!

    There is NO excuse for you to not know EXACTLY what you are selling – none at all.

    And to those of you who obviously should not be working in this industry – you need to wake up. Firstly with people like you on the front lines it is no wonder the likes of Purple Bricks (and others) are getting the traction that they are. Secondly, you are going to cost yourself or the company you work for a LOT of money. Thirdly, sooner or later you will get caught making a stupid assumption that 3 seconds worth of effort could have avoided and your reputation and that of your company will be ground into the dirt.

    The laws have been changed to protect the innocent and whilst charlatans still profess to be professionals this industry will remain in terrible trouble.

    It honestly takes no effort and just a few moments of your time – you could even use the information in your valuation report to show how good an agent you are… You never know it might get your fee back above 1.0%!

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    1. Certus

      SPOT ON

       

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  14. KByfield04

    You could forgive an agent 5-10% error but 25% is madness. An agent wouldn’t get away with selling a property saying it’s 2000 Sq ft when it’s 1500 and land should be no different.

    In this instance, given the need to achieve a certain land mass entitlement, you would have thought the buyer would have double-checked. But again 10% margin would still have met this. Messy!

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  15. Property Pundit

    Wonder if Mr Dugdale reads www.propertyindustryeye.com?

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  16. revilo

    Sadly it’s a classic case of misrepresentation on the part of the selling agent and I really worry for the ‘agents’ lurking in here you believe differently! The agent should have checked, measured or verified the area of the land.

    One also wonders if the seller signed off the details as correct?

    As for the buyer and the value – you look at a property in it’s entirety and you decide 1) if you want to buy it and 2) what it is worth to you. There is no £’s per acre that will stand up to scrutiny.

    If the area was crucial any sensible buyer would have double checked, either himself or via his legal representatives..

    An avoidable mess!

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  17. Emmersons46

    http://pstatic.powys.gov.uk/fileadmin/Docs/Estate_Agency/NTSEAT_guidance_on_property_sales_-_Sept_2015_en.pdf

    The “conveyancer’s” job is to assure the buyer and the lender of good title-and that is all. Solicitors will not measure land on behalf of a buyer to see if the description is correct. That is far beyond the professional duty and would be frowned upon by PII insurers who would probably not provide cover for such an activity if undertaken. One always suggests that a survey is undertaken by a Surveyor because that is what Surveyors do.

    The problem for Estate Agents is that there are regulations which protect consumers which directly relate to estate agents and there are others which also cover representations and should be adhered to. The link above is to the most recent guidance and is worth a read.

    It is wrong to say that suggesting in particulars that a buyer undertakes his own enquiries as to acreage through engaging a Surveyor is “no defence”-it is. If one makes clear the limit of one’s expertise and the limits of the service being offered in sales particulars and in client engagement letters/terms and conditions and if, in relevant matters, this is emphasised in writing then the consumer is put on notice and can make an informed choice.

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