I sold my farmlands at auction two weeks ago, as I had no one to take over my farm.

I have a couple of nephews, but none of them even seem interested in the farming, so I decided to sell.

I had spoken previously to a few of my neighbours who seemed interested in buying.

On the day of the auction, a solicitor was bidding on behalf of someone. He was the highest bidder, and the deposit was paid on the day by the solicitor. I signed the contract and the solicitor signed on behalf of his client.

I have now found out that I sold my land to a neighbour that I have not spoken to in years, as we had a huge falling out. Is there any way I can change my mind now and get out of the deal?

Dear Reader,

I appreciate that you are disappointed and frustrated.

It is not uncommon for a solicitor to bid on behalf of a client at auction and sign a contract in trust.

In hindsight, you could have insisted on the identity of the client being revealed in advance. However, a contract was signed by the solicitor on behalf of the client, and by you, and a deposit was paid. 

Therefore, a binding contract is in place.

When the hammer falls in an auction room, it represents an exchange of a binding contract between the seller and the buyer.

It is too late for either party to change their minds, and the sale is required to proceed in accordance with the contractual terms, and at the price that was concluded when the hammer fell.

Failure to complete breaches the contract, and can cause significant penalties.

Such situations are very rare; they can be costly to the seller that does not complete, and you would be advised to take advice from your solicitor regarding any other consequential claims that could be made against you, and what other obligations you might have.

The buyer can serve what is known as a completion notice on you, if you do not complete the sale by the closing date.

It allows 28 days for the seller to complete the sale.

It also states that the buyer reserves his right to seek compensation under the terms of the contract.

If the seller does not comply with this notice before the expiration of the last day of the said period, then the seller will be deemed to have failed to comply with the contract, and the conditions, in a material respect, and the buyer can enforce against the seller, without further notice, with such rights and remedies as may be available to him at law or in equity. 

The buyer could issue proceedings for breach of contract against you, and seek his costs of having to bring the proceedings, to be paid by you also.

If you refuse to close and complete the contract, the buyer may elect between alternatives.

He may affirm the contract, and seek specific performance or alternatively damages for breach of contract.

If he accepts the repudiation, he may rescind the contract, returning to pre-contract position, or seek damages for breach of contract.

He will seek the return of the deposit. If you default, the buyer may recover the deposit with interest.

He also may recover his costs in relation to the investigation of title.

In addition, a buyer has a lien on the land for recovery of the deposit due. Generally, the deposit is held by the seller’s solicitor, as stakeholder, who is obliged to return it to him, when he is clearly entitled to it.

Before you do anything, speak with your solicitor.

Karen Walsh, from a farming background, is a solicitor practicing in Walsh & Partners, Solicitors, 17, South Mall, Cork (021-4270200), and author of ‘Farming and the Law’. 

Walsh & Partners also specialises in personal injury claims, conveyancing, probate and family law.

Email: info@walshandpartners.ie Web: www.walshandpartners.ie

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