DIY Approach to Property Purchase Proves Costly

You might think that something as seemingly simple as buying a pitch for a caravan is straightforward enough to do yourself, but a recent example shows why no sensible person would consider entering into a property transaction without employing a specialist lawyer. A man who went ahead and paid £3,000 for a caravan pitch entirely wasted his money because he failed to appreciate that contracts for the sale of land must comply with strict rules.

The pitch had, at least in theory, changed hands twice before the man bought it. However, neither of those transactions was in writing, as required by the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989. Nor were steps taken to transfer title to those who believed that they had purchased the pitch.

Legal title to the pitch therefore remained registered in the name of the woman who had originally owned it. She then sold it to yet another purchaser, for the first time signing a written contract and executing a transfer. The man – who had for eight years considered himself to be its rightful owner – responded by applying to register a restriction on its title.

In dismissing his claim, however, the First-tier Tribunal found that he had no legal or beneficial interest in the pitch. Having failed to enter into a legally binding contract to acquire it, he had obtained nothing for his money and it could not be argued that the woman had held the pitch on trust for him. The Chief Land Registrar was instructed to cancel his application.

His recourse now lies in attempting to obtain redress from the vendor, which given the relatively small sums involved and the lack of appropriate paperwork is fraught with risk.