Friday, 27 November 2020

Woman claims from council over lost house sale

A WOMAN is claiming £6,000 from South Oxfordshire District Council after it failed to inform her

A WOMAN is claiming £6,000 from South Oxfordshire District Council after it failed to inform her about restrictions on buying her former home.

Mary Middleton, 64, tried to sell the property in Churchfield, off Timbers Lane, Nuffield, after being diagnosed with Graves Disease in February 2013.

But she lost a sale when the council enforced a restriction that the former council house could only be sold to someone who had lived or worked in the district for three years.

As a result, Mrs Middleton had to accept a lower offer.

Yet when she bought the house in 2007 she wasn’t told about the restriction.

Now the local government ombudsman has found the council was at fault for not telling her and and another resident in the district about the restriction.

Although the ombudsman’s ruling is not legally binding, it has asked the council to compensate both homeowners. Mrs Middleton, a divorcee who now lives in Keats Close, Woodley, put the house on the market in April last year.

She received an offer of £376,000 but the deal fell through because the council intervened and caused a delay.

As a result, Mrs Middleton was forced to accept a lower offer of £370,000 and the sale wasn’t completed until August.

If homeowners want to sell a former council house within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to someone from outside South Oxfordshire they require permission from the council.

The council said that Mrs Middleton should only sell her house to someone who had lived or worked in South Oxfordshire for at least three years.

But it had failed to inform her of this restriction when she moved to Nuffield from Buckinghamshire seven years before.

Her neighbour, who had moved to the village from Chesham, was also kept in the dark.

Mrs Middleton said: “My sale was affected because the couple I sold to lived a mile over the boundary.

“I had three offers on my property. The two highest were from people outside the area — one of them lived in Cornwall.

“I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to re-sell. It made a difference because in the end I took the next highest offer. When I lost the sale I complained that I had to put it back on at a reduced price.”

The ombudsman Dr Jane Martin ruled that the council has failed to give full information to the two homeowners about restrictions on their properties at the time of purchase.

She said the properties should have been sold to people living in the specific area but the district council hadn’t checked if the buyers were entitled. But when those buyers came to sell the council chose to enforce the local restriction.

The council argued the onus was on buyers to check the details but Dr s Martin found the council had failed to check if they had a local connection and failed to give complete information to their solicitors.

Dr Martin suggested that the district valuer should assess the value of properties when sold, with and without the restriction imposed.

She said that if the values were affected, the council should pay 50 per cent of the difference.

This could mean that Mrs Middleton would potentially be entitled to tens of thousands but she is only asking the council for £6,000, the amount she lost when her first sale fell through.

Dr Martin said: “Selling a home is a stressful time for most people but in these two instances South Oxfordshire District Council made the moving process all the more difficult because of the historic restrictions they were now enforcing on the properties.

“I have found no evidence that the council made an active decision not to enforce the restrictions when the homeowners bought their properties and officers should have properly informed the sellers and buyers’ legal representatives when they made enquiries.

“I now urge the council to consider my report and provide the remedy I have recommended.”

Mrs Middleton said: “I actually lost money on the house because the money I invested in renovation was lost. I sold it for £370,000 but that’s what it cost me. I did £25,000 worth of work on the garden, conservatory and other things.”

She criticised the council for not having informed her of the restriction in the first place.

She said: “I expect people in public service to have a grasp of it. They do not realise the impact it can have on people’s lives. It seems they don’t understand that to most people their house is the biggest investment of their lives.”

A district council spokeswoman said: “We are reviewing our procedures and will take the recommendations to cabinet to consider at the earliest possible opportunity.”

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