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Possible false advertising but I need advice as don't know how to go about complaint...(15 Posts)
In a nutshell (or be it a biggish nutshell), Just over a year ago, DH and I bought a new build. We have 2 young children. New build checked out to be in a catchment for a really good school - so we were told by the developers. We double checked this with the council (specifically the education department), who agreed this was the correct catchment (we were the first street so had no postcode to check).
Roll on moving date and we were supplied with a postcode. Found out that it was not in catchment (queue a lot of upsetness) turns out the school catchment is worst school in the area. We wrote to education department to complain about incorrect advice, we had a receipt of letter, but did not get a response. I did not really chase the issue as had just given birth to DC2.
Anyway, we informed the developer that they aught not to be telling people of this school catchment as information is wrong.
This week I have been looking at ad's for more houses on the site, claiming to be at an address which is, yes you've guessed it, within catchment for the top scoring school. They are also selling via a few local estate agents, who quite frankly should know the area well enough to know they are posting the wrong address for potential purchasers.
I can't help thinking this is deliberate false advertising - is it? If it is, is there somewhere I can go to put forward a complaint?
Could be inducement.. I think you need a property litigation lawyer for that one though.
I would pursue the council at this stage, if they definitely told you it was a specific catchment.
TBH I'm not sure we have a leg to stand on in our personal case as I stupidly went on somebodies word and did not have it in writing (expensive error!). My issue now is that the developers are still promoting it as being within the catchment boundaries of this school, when we actually went into the office nearly a year ago and told them they needed to change the information as it was wrong. I can only imagine the horror of all the new purchasers when they realise they've made a massive financial blunder in buying into the worst not best catchment as they were told.
Are you sure they didn't change the boundaries of the catchment area while you were living there?
You need a contract lawyer. There's something in contract law called reasonable reliance, meaning if you were told something to convince you to enter into a contract which turns out to be untrue, then you can be compensated for this. It's mostly measured in economic terms though, so if your house in catchment area A was worth £10k more than if it was in catchment B, but you were told it was catchment A and had to drop the price by 10k, then this would be an economic loss.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliance_damages I know it's Wiki, but it's pretty accurate and not as dry as wallpaper to read.
The day we moved in and had a postcode, we looked up our council facilities and school catchment showed up. That catchment has not changed since we've lived here (I have checked again, about a minute ago) and it remains the same. These new builds would be within the same catchment as us (they are further away than we are from the school but within the same building site).
As I mentioned though, I don't have anything in writing from the council to prove that they said this to me, so I don't think we could win our claim annoyingly
Have you tried submitting an appeal with the education department?
I think it would be wise to get your house re-valued. If it's in a different catchment area it could knock a chunk off the value. If this is the case, you need a contract lawyer.
It's pretty difficult to permanently remove things from the internet. Have you had a look to see if you can find the old catchment map?
I can't find one online. My frustration is that the developers are happy to be posting an address which is definitely within catchment, which I think is misleading to purchasers.
It's on that well know selling website where you pinpoint on a map where the property is, but in this case it isn't. I read the small print which states that 'Note: The pin shows the centre of the property's postcode, and does not pinpoint the exact address' which is their get out clause. The problem I have with this is that it's a heavily built up town, and the street they've located is around 400m walk away, although there is ample opportunity for them to pinpoint a closer street on the map.
They've chosen it because, they built this development in two phases. Turns out phase one was within catchment. We are in phase two. Phase two is further away, and the centre of phase two is definitely not where they are suggesting. It's not even halfway between the two developments, its sitting there bang in the middle of the first part of the build which they started years ago.
Depending on when you cleared your internet history, you may be able to find it on your computer. Look at 'History' at the top. Scroll down and it will give you a list of dates and a list of web sites you looked at on those dates.
I do think you need to see a contract solicitor. It sounds as though reasonable reliance is at play here as you believed them when they said it was in the catchment. There's a lot of knowledgeable people on the Education boards who know about school appeals.
I did start to compose a file of screen grabs with estate agent marketing information with dates on to justify my case, but ran out of steam a bit as it was very upsetting and I had a newborn to look after.
I don't think they mislead you, it is possible that there was a mistake with the catchment areas though so they should be able to help you with this. There's set grounds for appealing a school place, I don't know enough about these to be able to say for certain that a catchment area falls into this.
Keep the screen grabs!! Have you tried contacting your household insurance company? I have legal cover under my policy and they will fund a solicitor for certain things. It's vital that you get your house valued though, reasonable reliance is mainly motivated by economic loss rather than not getting into a certain school.
I have to get off to bed, sorry.
They mean you still might get into the school if outside the catchment if you appeal any rejection of a school place and explain you bought the place based on what you were told about the catchment. I would not guarantee though that would succeed.
On the other issue although it will not get you anything but satisfaction of hurting the developers the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 make it a criminal offence to make misleading advertising claims. Local trading standards will enforce those regulations so they are the people to contact IF it was not just an honest mistake. However if the developer now knows it is outside the school catchment then they should not be suggesting otherwise. I suspect over the years we have found it easier just to pay school fees from age 5 and both work full time though than buy a house to be in a catchment
If your house is now worth less because it is not in the catchment then you might have a misrepresentation claim. However as you say you did not have the assurance at the time in writing and I bet the contract buying the property says any pre contract statements are not part of the contract so I bet it will be hard to get any money. most written contracts exclude pre contract statements from the contract so if something important is said to you leading up to a contract always get that stated in writing within the contract terms. Eg the developer warrants that the house is currently within school catchment area X and attaches at annex 1 a statement from the local education authority saying so.
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