“Simon and Maggie Dancer were ready to exchange and complete on the sale of their house when the bombshell dropped. The conveyancing had uncovered the fact that Linden Homes, which had built the Buckinghamshire estate where they live, had miscalculated the boundaries of their home – and that meant their neighbour owned half their master bedroom. …
… Their neighbours, James and Katrina Inch, are unable to rejoice in their unexpectedly expanded floorspace, for the error makes their home also unsaleable. “We are astonished by how this mistake could have been overlooked by three separate solicitors – our own, our neighbours’ and Linden’s – when we bought the properties,” says James Inch, who was alerted to the issue by the Dancers.
… Extraordinarily, two more residents on the ironically named Exemplar Park estate in Aylesbury are in the same predicament. Ann and Terry Payne checked their deeds after the Dancers contacted them and discovered that their neighbour, Clare Reeve, effectively owns half of their main bedroom.
Like the Dancers and Inches, their homes are link-attached over a shared driveway to the parking area. The room above the gateway should belong to the Paynes, but an error bestows it on Reeve. Slipshod markings have also granted Reeve ownership of a large traffic island in front of the houses. “I am going through a divorce and am trying to sell, but I can’t while the boundaries are in dispute,” says Reeve. “You’d think Linden would have got in touch when it came to light, but I’ve had no word.”
The Paynes have been told by Linden Homes to get the original conveyancing solicitor to sort it out. And it appears unabashed by the fiasco, blaming the families and their solicitors for not noticing the mistakes when they bought. …
… Alarms ought to have been triggered by the very existence of a “flying freehold”. It is a legal grey area that can cause headaches because of potential problems with gaining access across the neighbour’s portion to carry out repairs or enforce covenants. Some mortgage lenders steer clear of such properties which can be difficult to sell on.
… A flying freehold caused an identical issue for Colchester homeowner Samantha Sweeney, who found herself unable to sell her link-attached house. She discovered that her neighbour owned 90 square feet of her 11-year-old property, including half her bedroom which overhangs a shared driveway between the two houses.
The estate had been built by Persimmon which told the Observer: “We worked closely with the resident and this has now been resolved.”
All the residents of Exemplar Park can lodge a formal complaint with their solicitors who missed the crucial anomalies and, if they don’t achieve a resolution, they can appeal to the Legal Ombudsman.
Linden Homes says that its legal team is working on a deed of rectification to correct and realign the development’s boundaries, but the delays have cost the Dancers dear. Their daughter starts school next year and they have to move by January in order to meet the deadline for school applications. They also want to be settled before their baby is born. “I’ve had to pay for new valuations and cancel my daughter’s place at the nursery where she was due to start in September after we’d relocated,” Simon Dancer says. “And Linden is moving in baby steps. As far as it’s concerned it sold the house four years ago and couldn’t care less. …”