A building society manager who lied to buy a farmhouse he bought at a knockdown price after it was repossessed by his own company has won the right to keep it.
Three Appeal Court judges overturned a ruling in the High Court [in 2001] that ordered Alan Deakin to surrender the property.
Ian and Elaine Corbett, who lost Yew Tree Farm in Sand, near Wedmore, in 1993 after falling behind with their mortgage payments to the Halifax, believed they had won their legal battle to have it returned to them last year when a High Court judge ordered that the sale should be set aside, because the Halifax failed to ensure it received the best possible price for the house.
But yesterday Mr Deakin and his wife Jillian won an appeal and will continue to live with their family at the farmhouse.
The Halifax was ordered to pay the Corbetts £20,000 and interest – the difference between the £140,000 Mr Deakin paid for the farm and its £160,000 value at the time.
It is now worth more than £340,00.
The Corbetts got into difficulties after taking out loans – which eventually put them £185,000 in debt to finance the conversion of a barn in the farmhouse grounds.
When their 250-year-old farmhouse was repossessed, the Corbetts moved into the converted barn, Little Sneyd, where they lived as neighbours of the Deakins, sharing the same drive but never exchanging a word.
The High Court, sitting in Bristol had heard that Mr Deakin had deceived his own employers to get around the company rule that barred employees from buying properties the firm had repossessed. He arranged for his uncle, Alan Marples, to buy the farm and exchanged contracts with Mr Marples on the same day at the same price £140,000 price.
The appeal judges, Mr Justice Pumfrey and Lords Justices Schiemann and Scott Baker, reversed the original decision because the Deakins were bringing up young children at Yew Tree Farm, which had been their family home for nine years, they had spent money refurbishing it and because of the delay in bringing the action to court.
The judges also said the rise in property values would have given Corbetts a benefit out of proportion to the undervaluation or the Deakings’ loss.
Lord Justice Scott Baker said: “The Deakins were only able to purchase Yew Tree Farm because Mr Deakin tricked the Halifax into believed that he was somebody else. The reason for Mr Deakin’s dishonesty was that the Halifax’s rules prohibited a sale to an employee or his family.”
“His dishonesty was neither here nor there as far as the Corbetts were concerned. Their only legitimate concern was that their house should be sold at a fair market value.”
“Bristol Evening Post” December 2002