Belfast Telegraph

Man who 'got carried away' at auction and bought a house for £1m must pay up, court rules

By Adrian Rutherford

This the £1m house purchased by a man who “got a little carried away” after going to an auction for breakfast — and which is now at the centre of a bitter legal wrangle.

Stephen Robinson was unable to come up with the money after tabling the huge bid for the two-storey property near Ballyclare at the height of the property boom.

Although a £100,000 deposit was paid by his daughter, Mr Robinson later backed out of the deal, saying he had gone to the auction for breakfast rather than to buy a house.

He claimed the land had not actually been sold, there were no other genuine bidders for the property and the deposit was actually a loan.

Now a High Court judge has ruled that Mr Robinson must complete the deal.

Mr Justice Deeney suggested Mr Robinson may have been swept up in the mood of the property market, which turned at around the time of the auction in October 2007.

The dispute centres on the property, comprising the house and four acres of land, on the Templepatrick Road.

Mr Robinson, from Knockagh Road in Carrickfergus, made a winning bid of £1,030,000 to buy the property from Anne and Richard Bones at the auction.

A memorandum of sale was signed by Mr Robinson, witnessed by a solicitor and Raymond Hill, the auctioneer.

The completion date was pushed back five months to May 2008, and Mr Robinson’s daughter Sarah became the nominated purchaser.

Yet the sale was never finalised, prompting Mr and Mrs Bones to launch legal action.

The case later went to court, where Mr Robinson disputed the validity of the contract.

He claimed that no-one else was trying to buy the property and land — an allegation rejected by Mr Justice Deeney as “remarkable”.

Mr Robinson has also alleged the £100,000 “deposit” was a loan.

He argued that Mr Bones wanted to go back to buyers — whom he had hoped would bid but did not turn up on the day — and show them evidence that he did have a buyer at £1m in the hope of encouraging them to pay more.

Mr Justice Deeney expressed reservations about possible communication between Mr Bones and Mr Robinson, but said that |it fell “very far short” of what was required to substantiate the |latter’s allegations in court. He said much of Mr Robinson's evidence was “consistent with a buyer who regrets his bargain than with some kind of false representation on the part of the vendors”.

The judge speculated that Mr Robinson had been encouraged by Mr Bones to attend the sale and had got “carried away”.

The judge noted that, although a £100,000 deposit was to be paid at the time, Mr Robinson did not have his cheque book with him.

“In fact he appears to have made, and I accept his evidence in this regard, some comment to the effect that he had come there for breakfast, not to buy a house,” he added.

The case was heard at the High Court in September but details were only published on the Courts Service website yesterday. The verdict is being appealed, and this is due to be heard in March.

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