Legal Q&A: My new flat might not be ready when promised. Where do I stand?

I've exchanged contracts on my dream flat but now I'm unsure that it's going to be completed when promised. My colleague is buying in the same block and has been told her one won't be ready until next summer. What can I do?

Question: About six months ago, I exchanged contracts to buy a flat on a new development. One of my colleagues is buying on the same site and she told me that her flat is not now going to be ready until next summer. 

When I exchanged contracts, I was told that my flat would be ready at the end of January next year. If it is not going to be ready on time, it will cause me huge problems, as I am currently living with friends and I have already outstayed my welcome. What can I do?

Answer: Just because your colleague’s apartment is not going to be ready on time, it does not necessarily mean that the construction of your apartment will be delayed, too. Ask the site agent/estate agent for an indication as to when your property is likely to be physically completed.

If the agent indicates that the completion of your flat is going to be delayed, ask your solicitor to contact the seller to establish the position and the reason for any delay. Read the contract you have signed. As the flat is in the course of construction, you would not have been given a fixed completion date in that contract. Instead, completion will be on notice. 

The contract should indicate the anticipated legal completion date and there should be conditions in the contract dealing with what will happen if physical completion is delayed. 

There should be a long stop date and a condition stating that if the seller cannot give you notice to complete by this date, you may withdraw from the contract and your deposit and reservation fee will be returned to you.

Seek advice from your solicitor on rescinding the contract so you can get your money back and start flat-hunting again.

What's your problem?
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona is a Legal Director in the private wealth group of Foot Anstey LLP in Exeter.
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

Follow us on Twitter @HomesProperty and Facebook