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Purchase And Sale Of Dwellings (Adoption Of Model Rules)

Volume 974: debated on Tuesday 27 November 1979

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3.57 pm

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to provide model rules of procedure for the purchase and sale of dwellings.
The purchase or sale of a house is a very important transaction for a private person and in some cases it can result in uncertainty, and even misery and financial loss because the parties to the transaction are not sure how to conduct themselves in particular unforeseen circumstances.

In Kensington, which I have the honour to represent, there are many properties where the prices are now so high that the question of procedure on disposal of such properties can be very important. When things go wrong, the problems are sometimes extremely vexatious.

I would like to make clear that I am concerned here not with conveyancing but with the procedure in the stages of the transaction leading up to the point where the sale is made a binding agreement by the exchange of signed contracts. According to normal practice, at present a householder may choose to sell his house by auction, by tender, by private treaty or by some kind of conditional contract, including various kinds of option arrangements. I am not seeking to interfere with the freedom of the vendor to choose the most suitable way of disposing of his house.

The procedure most commonly adopted is selling through advertisements, either with or without the aid of estate agents, and many problems can arise because the parties are in genuine doubt about how to proceed or even what honour demands in certain circumstances.

Hon. Members have often drawn attention to the practice of gazumping, which from time to time can be a particular nuisance. But it is not only the seller who sometimes is tempted to behave in a way that is frowned upon by public opinion. A buyer of a house, too, may be inclined to act in a way which causes distress or concern. Often the parties do not know the best thing to do because the purchase and the sale of a house is not something that a private citizen undertakes so often that he becomes familiar with the conventional routine.

Therefore, my object is to devise a form of model rules after consultation with professional bodies and others concerned. Once the vendor had decided to adopt these rules, both parties would be guided as to the way to act in cases of difficulty and the rules would be binding on the parties until the contract was signed.

I hope to do this in a workmanlike way: I hope that the model rules will establish themselves as a normal routine in the purchase and sale of a house. As I have already emphasised, I am not seeking to reduce the vendor's freedom to decide on his method of sale; but if the adoption of the "model rules" procedure became a popular and normal practice, vendors might be well advised to choose to sell their properties according to those rules because in that way they would have a more satisfactory transaction and probably would also obtain a better price.

I am well aware of the pitfalls in seeking to legislate in this area, particularly as set out in the Law Commission's working paper No. 51 on "Subject to Contract" agreements. However, I hope that I can produce a useful Bill which will provide hon. Members who are concerned about the present state of affairs with a series of realistic talking points and which may, in due course, lead to legislation which the House could approve. It is not through over-confidence but rather through diffidence that I am not asking other hon. Members at this stage to commit themselves in support of my Bill. I hope, however, that I may depend upon their co-operation and I value the assurances that I have already received in that respect. I hope that at this point the House will give me leave to introduce my Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Sir Brandon Rhys Williams.

Purchase And Sale Of Dwellings (Adoption Of Model Rules)

Sir Brandon Rhys Williams accordingly presented a Bill to provide model rules of procedure for the purchase and sale of dwellings: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 7 March and to be printed. [Bill 85.]