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Barratt misled home buyers

House builder found guilty of misrepresenting properties whose designs dif fered from show homes

BARRATT Homes has been found guilty of making 'misleading statements' to Northamptonshire home buyers.

Judges upheld an appeal by trading standards of ficers after the house builder was originally found not guilty by magistrates.

The High Court was told last week how Stephen Day and Steven Huntingdon were annoyed when £80,000 houses they agreed to buy at a Barratt development in Brackley dif fered from a show home they had seen.

Lord Justice Simon Brown and Mr Justice Newman ruled that Towcester magistrates had been wrong to acquit the company of four of fences under the 1991 Property Misdescriptions Act.

The judges directed the case to be sent back to the magistrates with a 'direction to convict'.

Lord Justice Simon Brown told the court: 'In November 1997, Mr Day visited the completed house he had contracted to purchase and noticed that it dif fered from the pictures and the show house.

'It had no gable roof over one window, no rendering to the top floor wall, no large window above the porch and no central concrete lintel in the ground floor window.'

Mr Huntingdon discovered similar dif ferences, but both men had continued with their purchases because they feared they would lose their 10 per cent deposits.

Lord Justice Simon Brown added: 'Barratt Homes' reason for changing the external appearance of the Maidstone-type frame was because in January 1997 the planning authority had required them to make those alterations.'

The firm argued before the magistrates that there had been no 'express or implied representation' that the houses, when built, would be identical to the show home.

Magistrates accepted that statements had been 'mere promises to the future and not statements of existing fact' so Barratt had committed no of fence under the Act.

But, overturning the ruling, Lord Justice Simon Brown said:

'That was how they proposed to build the house ... and, so far as they knew, nothing stood in the way of it.'