Three estate agent partners must stand trial for allegedly making false statements about the size of the “superb gardens” surrounding a “charming period family house”, the High Court ruled yesterday.
Legal experts said the case was a warning to estate agents generally about the perils of giving specific measurements relating to properties when tempting buyers.
The High Court heard how, in 2009, Bycroft & Co were agents for the sale of Hazeldene at Kings Loke, Hemsby, Great Yarmouth.
The property was described in the sales brochure as a “charming period, detached family house immaculately presented and set within superb gardens of approximately three quarters of an acre (sts)...”
Two judges were told the estate agents relied entirely on the vendors’ estimate as to the size of garden and took no measurements or made any checks themselves.
Norfolk County Council’s trading standards department prosecuted Charles, Julie and Daniel Bycroft – the husband, wife and son who are partners in the estate agency firm – for breaching the 1991 Property Misdescriptions Act.
Last November a district judge stopped the trial, saying the use of the word “approximately” in the property description and the phrase “sts” amounted to an effective disclaimer.
But yesterday Lord Justice Elias and Mr Justice Singh allowed an appeal by Norfolk council and said the case against the Bycrofts must be re-determined.
Miles Bennett, appearing for Norfolk trading standards department, said the plot covered only 0.4 of an acre (17.424 sq ft), which amounted to a “huge disparity” of some 85 per cent.