Barratt guilty of not telling buyers home truths

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The Independent Online
BARRATT HOMES is to be convicted for making misleading statements about new homes for sale, the High Court ruled yesterday.

Two buyers ended up with pounds 80,000 detached homes in Brackley, Northamptonshire, quite different from the ones they thought they had bought from the leading property developer while the houses were being built, the court was told.

Two judges ruled that Corby magistrates were wrong last June to acquit Barratt Homes of making misleading statements, in contravention of the 1991 Property Misdescriptions Act.

The magistrates found the developers had only made "promises to the future - not statements of existing fact" about houses under construction and so could not be found guilty of making misleading statements under the Act.

But Lord Justice Simon Brown and Mr Justice Newman ruled yesterday that the magistrates were wrong in law and the statements amounted to more than "mere promises". The judges sent the case back to the magistrates with a direction to convict.

Later, David Shaw, principal trading standards officer for Northamptonshire County Ccouncil, which prosecuted Barratt, said the ruling would help to protect people. "It makes it clear that developers need to ensure that statements made to buyers at the outset are followed through to the finished building," he said.

Barratt, which was ordered to pay pounds 3,842 in legal costs after losing the High Court action, now faces a total fine from the magistrates up to a maximum of pounds 20,000, plus an additional legal costs bill, he said.

Lord Justice Brown described in his judgment how the two disgruntled buyers, Stephen Day and Steven Huntingdon, were shown pictures of the design they thought they were buying and visited a show house that had a gable roof and other features.

Barratt was prosecuted by Northamptonshire trading standards department when the new "Maidstone" houses at Castle Mount, Brackley, turned out to have no gables. One of the buyers said it was very different from the house with which he had "fallen in love".

Barratt said the reason for the changes to the external appearances of both houses was that alterations had to be made under the conditions of planning consent, and warning notices had been displayed.