Consumer Rights: 'Our dream roof terrace proved to be a mirage, and may cost us dear'

A couple, near the end of a house-buying chain, could consider a claim against the seller for false information

Q: I am selling my home and the sale has gone smoothly but the house I wanted to buy has turned out not to be what I was led to believe. There were six agents advertising it and they all claimed that it had a big roof terrace for entertaining. The terrace made us fall in love with the place. It is beautifully decked and has perimeter lighting and an electric door. It increased the living space.

However, when we got the contract through to sign, it specifically said the roof can only be used for access and repair. We feel we've been led up the garden path. No one at any time pointed out that what was clearly supposed to look like a roof terrace wasn't.

We don't want the place now and have pulled out which means that we are seriously out of pocket with legal fees to date. If we don't go ahead with the sale we'll lose our buyer and the legal fees and other expenses we've had to pay. If we carry on we'll have to move out and rent.

Surely, someone should refund at least the money we've spent on buying something that wasn't what we were led to believe?

WJ

A: I have talked to the National Association of Estate Agents about this and we think this could come under the Property Misdescriptions Act 1991.

This is the legislation brought in to stop agents making false or misleading claims about the property they're selling. Check if your agent is a member of the NAEA. If so they will have signed up to the code of practice and NAEA, at naea.co.uk, will be able to advise on how to sort the matter out. It may be able to take disciplinary steps against an agent which would persuade the agent to reimburse you.

However, if the agent isn't a member, or refuses to pay up, you will have a more difficult claim on your hands. Enlist the help of your solicitor.

Estate agents do tend to come out at the bottom of the popularity league tables but many of them are honest people, and it's possible that the agents were misled by the seller. If the person selling the house has built a roof terrace where there shouldn't be one because of a planning restriction, the agents involved would only know that if the seller told them. If they haven't been told and, like you, saw a roof terrace, took pictures, and then billed it as such, the seller is at fault.

It's possible the seller did this deliberately knowing that it makes the place more attractive and increases the price. In that case you should claim your out-of-pocket expenses from the seller.

If he or she ignores your claim you could take the case to the County Court. I can't imagine your legal fees come to more than £5,000 so the case is likely to be dealt with under the small claims process.

***

Q: Last November, I bought a laptop from a well-known chain of computer shops and they loaded all the software I needed. They were great.

About six months ago the machine refused to boot up. I took it back and it was sent back to the manufacturer. It came back in a complete mess and in the end the shop engineer had to rebuild the whole thing and reload the software.

All went well until this week when the same thing happened again. I have taken it back and it is on its way back to the manufacturer. But this time the shop manager says I will have to pay for all the software to be reloaded. Why?

The machine is still under guarantee and if it comes back fixed surely I should be put back to where I was at the beginning of this transaction. How much of a fuss can I make if I don't get what I want?

BT

A: When something you buy goes wrong your contract is with the retailer not the manufacturer. You were happy to accept the original repair, but less happy at having to accept a second given the failure first time around. You are also being inconvenienced a second time by not having the laptop for another period of weeks.

Explain this to the manager and don't be afraid to hold out to get what you want. Call Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 for any extra help.

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