Land law: Emails could be classed as legally binding agreement following a landmark case
Following a landmark legal case, email communications could be classed as a legally binding agreement.
Stavros Neocleous offered to purchase a boat jetty on a piece of land owned by his neighbour (Christine Rees) in between their homes in the Lake District. The land contained a derelict shed and was generally run down, with Mr Neocleous offering £175,000 for the plot, which stood between his jetty and a number of boathouses. A number of emails were sent confirming the sale.
The deal was confirmed and Rees’ solicitor sent an affirmative reply to Neocleous’ solicitor agreeing to a suggestion they made while negotiating the contract but not finalised. The neighbour then pulled out of the agreement.
The email was sent with a standard footer, which included the lawyer’s name, name of the firm, their job title and contact details.
The judge has ruled that the email correspondence complied with Section 2 (1) of the Law of Property Act of 1989, which states: “The document incorporating the terms or, where contracts are exchanged, one of the documents incorporating them (but not necessarily the same one) must be signed by or on behalf of each party to the contract.” and therefore the sale must proceed, with an email signature constituting a binding agreement in this case.
The ruling means that an exchange of emails in communications or negotiations with a name at the bottom is could have the same legal standing as a handwritten signature. This is likely to have a significant impact on the property sector.
Care needs to be taken with emails between Solicitors or legal representatives, as they could be committing to a deal. This case is sure to have an impact on the traditional exchanging process in which both parties personally sign the contract.
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