Property Dispute Imposes Heavy Cost Penalty for Couple

A recent claim for negligence against a firm of architects, which resulted in a five-day court hearing, has led to a couple rueing their decision to litigate a dispute.

The couple wished to build a garage and workshop in the grounds of their property and engaged the services of a firm of architects. They claimed that the advice of the architect was that the traditional post and beam ('Border Oak') style building they say they told him they would have preferred would not get planning permission.

They therefore agreed to have a different style of building constructed. Some years later, they brought a claim against the architects because they considered that the type of building that was eventually built was more expensive than the style they had originally wanted and that once built it had added less value to their property than a building in their preferred style would have done.

The architects' defence was based on the absence of any evidence that the couple had stated that their original intention was to build a different type of structure or that they had suffered any actual loss.

In a long judgment, the judge concluded (despite the lack of any attendance notes being made by the defendant firm of the meeting at which they were instructed) that the claimants' case that they had asked for a Border Oak style building had not been established. He also concluded that they had not substantiated that their property would have been more valuable had that style of building been erected.

In rejecting the claim, the judge commented, "The garage has the correct dimensions, layout and function. What then could be the basis of complaint?"

The matter of the legal costs of the defendant firm is still unresolved, but these greatly exceed the value of the claim. The court has ordered that a payment of £90,000 on account of those costs should be made.

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