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The seller of the property I am selling now refuses to complete. What are my options?

Property Law

Antonio Flores Vila

5th of September 2002

Q. We are in the process of buying an apartment near Cartagena. We signed a private contract via a Spanish lawyer in April with an agreed completion for the end of August.

A month ago the vendors indicated they did not want to proceed with the sale and suggested we should negotiate compensation from them. We advised them via our Lawyer that we wished to go ahead with the purchase.

Despite sending registered letters to their home in the UK with instructions on the place, time and date for signing the deeds we have not heard anything else from the vendor either via their Lawyer or their estate agent.

From this we assume they will not be going ahead with the sale. Our question is how long should it take in the courts to enforce the contract and will we be liable for costs of any sort?

Thank you for your help.

Geoff & Phyllis Burt

    A. Dear Mr. and Mrs. Burt,

    I have not seen the contract you have signed, and therefore I am not sure of the type of agreement you have reached on the documents. A private purchase contract can allow any of the parties to pull out of the deal, envisaging penalties for it. The most common one provides that if the buyer pulls out, he will lose the deposit paid, and if the vendor does, he will have to refund double that amount. This has to be specified on the contract.

    However, it may be the case that the private agreement has been arranged in a way that no party can opt out without the other party┬┤s consent. Both buyer and seller in this case are in a position to, if any of them breaches, to sue for performance and damages, as the case may be. In this case costs would most possibly be imposed on the losing party, that is, the party who decides not to continue with the sale.

    As far as how long would the court case take, that depends on the district court where your property is located, although you can be sure that in first instance the case is not likely to be decided before 8 months at least.

    I suggest you seek advice from your lawyer as to the options you have available.

    Yours sincerely

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