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Couple buy ‘bargain’ £69,000 cottage then discover it only comes with 5ft of the garden pictured

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Rebecca and David French thought they had secured a bargain in buying a house for £69,000.

Auctioneer Colin West, who appears on the BBC’s Homes under the Hammer, told the pair their winning bid for the two-bedroom Cumbrian cottage was the ‘deal of the day’.

But their elation turned to despair when they learnt that all bar a 5ft strip of the garden belonged to a neighbouring farmer. 

Sold short: Rebecca and David French own less than a fifth of the garden at their Cumbrian cottage

Sold short: Rebecca and David French own less than a fifth of the garden at their Cumbrian cottage

Sold short: Rebecca and David French own less than a fifth of the garden at their Cumbrian cottage

This is the garden that Rebecca and David French thought they were getting when they purchased the two-bedroom Cumbrian cottage

This is the garden that Rebecca and David French thought they were getting when they purchased the two-bedroom Cumbrian cottage

This is the garden that Rebecca and David French thought they were getting when they purchased the two-bedroom Cumbrian cottage

Auctioneer Colin West said he had forgotten to mention the problem with the back garden, which meant that the Frenches owned only 43 of its 258 sq ft

Auctioneer Colin West said he had forgotten to mention the problem with the back garden, which meant that the Frenches owned only 43 of its 258 sq ft

Auctioneer Colin West said he had forgotten to mention the problem with the back garden, which meant that the Frenches owned only 43 of its 258 sq ft

They also found out that the seller was none other than West.

He said he had forgotten to mention the problem with the back garden, which meant that the Frenches owned only 43 of its 258 sq ft.

Homes Under the Hammer approached the couple to film their renovation efforts but the plan was dropped because the sale led to court action.

‘I felt sick to the stomach when our solicitor told me they didn’t think that the garden was included in the deeds,’ said Mrs French, 54, who does up properties full time with her 53-year-old husband.

Devastated: David and Rebecca French next to the wall which marks the boundary between their five foot garden and the rest of the land owned by an adjacent farm

Devastated: David and Rebecca French next to the wall which marks the boundary between their five foot garden and the rest of the land owned by an adjacent farm

Devastated: David and Rebecca French next to the wall which marks the boundary between their five foot garden and the rest of the land owned by an adjacent farm

The front of the £69,000 Cumbrian cottage that David and Rebecca French purchased thinking they had bagged themselves the 'deal of the day'

The front of the £69,000 Cumbrian cottage that David and Rebecca French purchased thinking they had bagged themselves the 'deal of the day'

The front of the £69,000 Cumbrian cottage that David and Rebecca French purchased thinking they had bagged themselves the ‘deal of the day’

‘We didn’t know the garden was not included when we bought it or otherwise we wouldn’t have bothered. Who is going to want to buy a house that doesn’t come with the garden for the full price?’

West, a director at Auction House Cumbria, pleaded guilty in October to misdescribing the house and was fined £950.

Carlisle magistrates decided he had not sought to deceive but still had a duty of care when selling properties. 

Following the case, West offered the couple £3,000 in compensation but they are seeking £12,500, saying they are unable to market the property at its £120,000 value.

Fined: Colin West pleaded guilty in October to misdescribing the house and was fined £950

Fined: Colin West pleaded guilty in October to misdescribing the house and was fined £950

Fined: Colin West pleaded guilty in October to misdescribing the house and was fined £950

Mrs French added: ‘When he put his hammer down, he said “that is the deal of the day”. It might have been for him, but it wasn’t for us. When I found out he was the owner as well, that is when the anger set in.’

The Cumbrian auction house is one of many filmed by Lion Television, the production company which makes Homes under the Hammer for the BBC.

West, who still appears on the show, said: ‘The court found that (and it was reported contemporaneously that) the regulatory breach was caused by a genuine mistake and that there was no intent to deceive.’

A BBC spokesman said: ‘We have confirmed to Mr and Mrs French we have no plans to broadcast the property purchase.’

Lion Television was contacted for comment.

BUYING A PROPERTY AT AUCTION AND THE LAW: 

When you make the highest bid at auction you are legally bound to proceed with purchase when the hammer falls.

Property is no different and the stakes are often much higher.

There are no guarantees when buying a house at auction and if you find something wrong with a property you are unlikely to be able to go back to the seller.

The usual consumer legislation that applies when buying faulty goods does not apply for purchasing property. 

The seller’s solicitor will make a sales package available to bidders before the auction. This will include key information such as plans and searches of the home.

Buyers are advised to have their own lawyers review this sales pack so that they can be fully informed before making a purchase.

For example, there could be rights of way affecting a property which are important to know about.   

There could be grounds for a dispute if a property had been wrongly described in the auction catalogue, but the legal footing is far from certain for the buyer. 

It is highly recommended to obtain a title report from a lawyer before the auction, as well as a building survey. 

Sources: InBrief, HomewardLegal

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