In this case, Mr and Mrs A, the potential buyers, claimed that the Agent failed to check the PVCu windows and doors which had been installed by the sellers were compatible with the property’s grade II listed status, adding that this had caused them to enter into a long and drawn out transaction that did not proceed to fruition.
The sellers had purchased the property 30 years previously and had applied for listed status soon after, which was granted. When viewing the property, Mr and Mrs A queried the addition of PVCu windows and doors and asked if these were compliant with the listed status. They said that they were assured by the Agent that everything was fine. However, their subsequent survey raised concerns over alterations that had been carried out, stating that these had possibly been made without consent, including the addition of PVCu windows, doors and conservatory. A planning enforcement officer then visited the property and instructed the sellers to replace certain fixtures and fittings with materials that were suited to the grade II listed status and met certain requirements. After assuring Mr and Mrs A that they would be involved in decisions regarding the replacement windows and doors and commencing work, the sellers then withdrew from the sale stating that they wanted to carry out the work without the involvement of a third party.
I took into consideration that despite the result of the survey and subsequent order from the planning enforcement officer, Mr and Mrs A had maintained their interest in the property and regularly expressed their desire to continue with the purchase. However, it was also clear that the Agent should have been ‘on notice’ regarding the alterations and should have conducted their own enquiries as to whether they were compliant with the grade II listed status. That said, even if problems been identified at the start of the marketing process, this would have unlikely deterred Mr and Mrs A. I considered that a degree of avoidable aggravation and distress had been caused by the Agent’s failure to carry out further enquiries, but I was not persuaded that they were responsible for the subsequent costs incurred by Mr and Mrs A. Indeed, Mr and Mrs A acknowledged that their losses had been caused by the sellers’ decision to withdraw. I supported the complaint and made an award
When dealing with listed buildings, I expect agents to identify any apparent alterations which may not be consistent with the property’s status. Clearly the installation of PVCu widows and a conservatory to a grade II listed building was an obvious alteration which should have put any professional agent ‘on notice’ that further investigation was required. Furthermore, agents should be aware that the results of their investigation would likely constitute material information to the average consumer under the CPRs.