MPs seek new laws to stop gazumping

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The Independent Online

MPS called for new rules to outlaw "gazumping and gazundering" in the property market yesterday. Bowen Wells, the Tory MP for Hertford and Stortford, said he was seeking to end the "heartbreak" often associated with property sales.

Gazumping describes the raising of a price by the vendor after an offer has been accepted, but before the contract has been signed. Gazundering is where the buyer reduces an offer in similar circumstances.

Mr Wells said: "In other trans- actions, a man's word is his bond and is enforceable in the courts. So it should be with property.

"The Property Transactions Bill, complements Government policy and is supported by MPs from all parts of the House.

The bill would make the acceptance of an offer on a property, a binding legal contract. If either party withdraws from the contract, costs will be payable and the deposit forfeited.

While the measure lacks the parliamentary support needed to become law, the Government is looking at ways to reduce the length it takes to buy houses in an attempt to reduce opportunities for gazumping.

A pilot study in Bristol is testing a seller's pack, which contain a surveyor's report, copies of warranties and the sort of information a council search would reveal. Ministers hope that if the seller's pack was made compulsory, moving would be made easier. The first exchange of contracts in the trial took four and a half weeks and another just eight days, compared with the UK average of eight weeks.

The pilot findings should be compiled by the end of August and legislation passed next year at the earliest. The system could be in place by 2003.

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