The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Firm’s blunder as it pays back £22,000 deposit . . . but still tries to gag MoS
Ms L.O. writes: I looked for properties online and found a flat in the Chartwell Plaza development in Southend. As I have a dog, I twice asked the agent if dogs were allowed. He told me that although dogs were not allowed in the main tower, they were allowed in part of the building called the ‘annex’ where I was buying a flat, so there was no problem. I paid £22,000 as a deposit to Prosperity Wealth & Developments Limited. Now I have received a report on title which says that in fact no animals are allowed without prior consent which can be revoked at any time. However, the company says if I do not go ahead with the purchase I will lose my £22,000 deposit.
THIS really is a case of shifting the goalposts, big time. Even if you were given permission to bring your dog with you when you moved into the flat, the permission could be withdrawn later, leaving you with a choice of finding a new home at short notice or getting rid of your pet.
The good news though, is that the goalposts are pretty firmly rooted. A major factor in your decision to buy the flat was the assurance that your dog could live there too. You would not have signed the reservation form or parted with £22,000 if you had been given the real facts, and because of this, Prosperity Wealth & Developments cannot keep a penny of your £22,000.
So, this was an open and shut case. Almost. After I approached Birmingham-based Prosperity Wealth, it took just 24 hours for the company to tell me that it knew you wanted your dog to join you in your new home.
Staff explained: ‘We sought permission from the freeholder and unfortunately, as we suspected, were told this was not approved.’
The sales agent disputes telling you that your dog would be allowed in the annex, but Prosperity Wealth appeared to accept that it is unlikely you would have bought a new home if part of the price was having to get rid of your dog. The company told me it had decided after all to give you a full refund of your £22,000.
You were pleased. I was pleased. And Prosperity Wealth had won itself a pat on the back on this page. But this is where the company bizarrely managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Without telling me, it refused to repay your deposit unless you first did your best to stop me reporting what had happened.
In a series of messages, Prosperity Wealth told you: ‘We will need communication that the article will be cancelled.’ You explained that this was outside your control, and you asked: ‘Does the refund depend on the article not being published by Mr Hetherington?’
Prosperity Wealth told you: ‘We need to see evidence that you have communicated with him and confirmed the case has been resolved, and you do not wish your statement to be published.
‘Once we have seen this confirmation, we will be able to process the refund.’
So, you let me know what was going on, and I agreed you could send me the demands made by Prosperity Wealth, and let the company have a copy. A day later, the £22,000 landed back in your bank account. But what a stupid decision by the Birmingham business to turn what would have been a small report showing it had treated a customer fairly, into a bigger story of how it threatened to keep your cash unless you tried to censor The Mail on Sunday.