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Claims involving Property Professionals

Our Property Litigation team has extensive first-hand experience of advising professionals in the property industry on the handling of claims based upon negligence and breach of contract.  We are skilled negotiators who understand the need to protect reputations, to deal with issues decisively and limit costs.

Our experience and expertise especially in disputes involving land (see below) can make all the difference to those facing a claim.  Having separately acted for solicitors and surveyors; claimants and defendant insurers, we are familiar with the sensitivities encountered by all the parties.  Each claim is handled in a way which avoids endangering any continuing client/adviser relationship.

We have extensive experience of running these claims.  We are familiar with Professional Negligence Protocol and will identify, at an early stage, whether a matter can be settled quickly or whether it should be resolved by alternative dispute resolution, e.g. mediators, or aggressively moved to trial.  Although delay is sometimes unavoidable, we will take steps to reach the quickest possible resolution.

Real Property Experience

As dedicated Property Litigators we are familiar with all aspects of disputes arising out of the use of land, freehold or whether landlord or tenant disputes.  We handle many high value or materially complex disputes involving property interests, including:-

  • breach of contract disputes concerning various types of property related agreements
  • rectification claims
  • specific performance
  • nuisance, trespass, possession and boundary disputes
  • easement and covenant disputes
  • conditional break clauses in leases

So, not only do we have experience in claims against property professionals, we also have experience in the area in which those claims arise enabling a better understanding of the issues.

Our Added Value in Supporting our Clients

We have significant experience in advising on claims involving property professionals including:-

  • Advising the firm's professional indemnity team in the context of claims made against professionals (mostly solicitors) and arising out of property transactions or disputes;
  • Advising clients during ongoing transactions where problems accrue and it proves necessary to take account of the client's obligations to mitigate its consequent loss and to protect its rights of action and recovery against a previous/other professional adviser;
  • Advising by way of a 'second opinion' where clients have concerns about the conduct or approach to a property transaction or dispute of an incumbent professional adviser.

Experience

Claims against Solicitors

  • Mixed use city centre development -   The client's solicitors failed to advise that airspace was demised under a prior lease and could not be built over without the tenant's consent – potentially frustrating to the project and leading to significant loss.  We advised in the development partners' dispute focusing on the contractual allocation of responsibility, triggering a compromise solution.  The compromise mitigated the client's losses and facilitated a prompt settlement with the solicitors avoiding a protracted and detailed causation dispute, or the souring of relations.
  • Sale of land - resulted in a claim for breach of contract/misrepresentation by the purchaser.  The vendor's solicitors prepared incorrect title information and an incorrect sale contract.  We identified the vendor's solicitors' underlying error and secured a compromise funded by the solicitors, so avoiding a protracted and expensive dispute that would have included a boundary dispute between neighbours.
  • Overage – sale of land agreement omitted key wording and contained defective overage provisions prompting a successful claim by the vendor (for whom we acted) to imply the omitted wording and obtain an order for specific performance for payment of sums due under the  agreement. As the purchaser subsequently went into administration, the vendor's former solicitors are being pursued to recover the estimated loss of in excess of £1.3m.
  • Adverse Possession – Defending solicitors in resisting claim for adverse possession of a substantial London residence taken over by squatters following a mortgage fraud claim
  • Rent Review – we identified negligence in the drafting of a Deed of Variation and Reversionary Lease affecting rent review provisions leading to a loss of circa £1.5m
  • Rights of Light – negligently drafted lease provisions failed to protect position concerning right of light on future development

Claims against Surveyors

  • Rent Review - Surveyors instructed to agree a rent review with the landlord.  The surveyors assumed, wrongly, that the lease provided for an upwards only review.  We secured prompt expert evidence of correct rent level on the basis of an upwards and downwards review clause.  We also arranged an early "informal" mediation and procured a virtual indemnity recovery for client.
  • Break clause - Surveyor and Solicitor failed to appreciate the conditionality of the break clause in the lease thus leaving the client saddled with a lease for the remainder of the term of 15 years at a six figure rent with the prospect of 2 further upwards only reviews. After the issue of proceedings, the matter was settled at mediation to the satisfaction of the client and costs recovered.
  • Sale of Land – a firm of agents negligently misstated the floor areas for 3 sets of buildings they were selling on behalf of a vendor client. Following a six figure claim for damages, we settled the claim against the purchaser by getting the agents' insurers to fund the damages and pay costs as part of an overall settlement against the purchaser and the agents thus avoiding an expensive 3 day trial and settle 2 claim in one.
  • Successfully defending surveyors - The surveyors (our client) served notices to trigger a rent review.  The landlord argued that the notices were late and that time was of the essence.  The claim was resisted at trial: the decision was reported as part of a seminal series of decisions in which the courts have tried to explain when time is of the essence where there is an absent express provision in the rent review clause.

Claims against Surveyors – continued

  • Rights of Light - we issued proceedings seeking significant damages from a specialist rights of light firm of surveyors following negligent advice given to a housebuilder client that a major residential development in the City of London would not cause any "actionable injury". We recovered almost £2m, a substantial proportion of the figure our client paid the neighbouring landowner to avoid an injunction and proceed with its development;
  • Investment Letting - advising a property investor client on substantial losses suffered as a result of negligent investment advice from surveyors on retail investment property comprising several units which subsequently took three years to let

Key Contacts