we put our house on the market in January, and since then have had about 5 viewings. We then privately found a buyer - a friend of a friend, who had not seen any estate agent marketing materials and didn't know we were looking to sell. This person is now ready to go ahead with the sale, but the estate agent says they are still due commission, even though they did not introduce or have anything to do with the buyer?
It should say on your contract whether the agency is due any commission for a sale during the marketing period or only if they "introduced the buyer" or words to that effect.
I tend to think that, unless the contract is very craftily worded, you would get away with it and it would be for the agency to prove that they were instrumental in the sale. Give them written notice and exchange after the notice period has expired.
Firstly check the terms that you signed up to, the standard terms are usually that it has to be someone that was 'introduced' by the estate agent (which can be simply them sending out a leaflet). They should keep a list of everyone who they send details to so ask them so show you their proof that they introduced your friend.
Unless the terms very clearly include such a scenario as you describe (and then you could argue they are unfair) then under the relevant case law the estate agent needs to show that they were the effective cause of the sale. From what you say that is not the case - definitely sounds like a try on to me!
If they pursue it then you should speak to a solicitor who knows this type of case who can advise you properly
Thanks Lindsell and bran that's really helpful. We will give notice to terminate now and fortunately haven't even any documentation of record of anything with anyone (solicitors or even mortgage company) of our new buyer yet.
From what I have read up on, it would seem that a 'sole agency' agreement would mean we still pay them commission if the buyer had been introduced to us by anyone at all (i.e. any third party, any agent etc.), but as we literally put a note through this lady's door ourselves then nobody made any kind of introduction as it were.
A 'sole seller' agreement (which are quite rare and not what we have) means we would have to pay.