Mr and Mrs B placed an acceptable offer on the property, which had not yet been completed by the property development company who was the seller. A number of months later it became apparent during the conveyancing that there was a planning issue which was likely to delay the transaction. The seller advised that the matter was in hand and would be resolved soon, however, Mr and Mrs B decided to withdraw from the transaction. They then
complained to the Agent asserting that they should have been made aware of the planning issue and sought compensation for their abortive fees.
The planning issue concerned the number of bedrooms, specifically the inclusion of an attic room. The Agent’s file indicated that they had neither seen the planning documents nor had been advised by the seller that there were any outstanding planning issues. The property itself was one of seven identical properties all being constructed at the same time by the seller.
In my view, there was nothing in the information provided by the seller to the Agent that should have put them on notice that all might not be as it seemed. This was not a case in which an existing property was the subject of a loft conversion or a similar project. The property was one of seven brand new properties, each built to the same design which included an attic en-suite bedroom. In these circumstances I did not consider that information had been available to the Agent that should have put them on notice that there was an issue which required further investigation. I was not persuaded to support the complaint.
I would not normally expect agents to have access to, or to seek access to, planning documents in respect of properties they market unless there is something that puts them on notice, such as the conversion of a loft into a bedroom within an already established property. However, should information be obtained that could indicate a problem, the agent must make the appropriate enquiries and advise accordingly thereafter.