Property deal judged unfair

Wednesday 23 June 2004

A High Court judge has ruled that a Richmond couple took advantage of an elderly neighbour to try to buy her property in a "substantially unequal bargain".

By The Landlord

Justice Ronald Young ordered that the written contract for the purchase be amended, despite being signed by both parties, because that was not what was agreed to verbally.

His ruling follows a two-day court hearing in Nelson last month on the dispute that arose over the deal.

The deal related to a Lower Queen St property owned by an estate, of which sisters Madge Johnston, 81, and Thelma Levy, 78, were the trustees. Ms Johnston lived on the property.

In early 2002 they had discussions with neighbours Maxwell Clark and Shona McBride, and subsequently signed a written contract drawn up by the couple to sell the 9.6ha property for $300,000. However, Justice Young said it was clear the sisters only ever intended to sell part of the property and retain the house and 1300sq m of land so Ms Johnston could continue to live there.

He said Mr Clark and Ms McBride had agreed to that verbally, but the written contract they presented to the sisters was misdrafted and related to all of the property.

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