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Contract for property sale

Specific performance of an alleged contract

Case Law - 
Neocleous v Rees [2019] EWHC 2462 (Ch)

Neocleous v Rees [2019] EWHC 2462 (Ch) was a case in the Manchester County Court and the first reported judgment on whether an electronic signature by email is enforceable for the purposes of a property contract (section 2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989).
In the case of Neocleous v Rees, Ms Rees claimed that the parties had not reached an agreed settlement.
Mr and Mrs Neocleous put forward the case that the email exchange between solicitors amounted to a contract and asked for specific performance of an alleged contract.

Legislation - 
Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989, section 2

The relevant legislation is that any contract for the disposition of land, (with certain exceptions) must:
1.    be in writing;
2.    incorporate all terms expressly agreed in one document; and
3.    be signed by or on behalf of each party to the contract.

It was suggested on behalf of Mr and Mrs Neocleous that the series of emails between the parties’ solicitors constituted one single document setting out the agreed terms, in writing, and that the electronic signatures at the footer of the emails fell within the meaning of ‘signed’ under the third limb of section 2 of LPM.

The defendant’s position before the, county court, trial was that there was no enforceable contract under the 1989 Act because:

i)                   The emails did not show an intention to create an agreement for the disposition of an interest in land; rather they showed an intention to reduce their settlement into writing;

ii)                The emails did not contain all of the terms of the alleged agreement since the parties had expressed an intention to reduce such terms to writing in a further document;

iii)              The emails were not signed by the parties.

Outcome

In the Neocleous v Rees case the judgment by Manchester County Court was in favour of the claimant. I must emphasise that the defendant had conceded by the trial the first and second of the above points, leaving the only issue between the parties as to whether the signature requirement of Section 2(3) was met.
Also, this is  a County Court judgment, and this means that it is not binding in subsequent rulings at county court or decisions of higher courts.

This is a guide only, if you require specific advice please contact Laurence Holmes Solcitors Bristol Law Firm.

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