Emails Classed As Legal Signature Following Contentious Land Law Case

Email communications could now be classed as a legally binding agreement following the conclusion of a landmark legal case this week. 

Land law now has a set precedent for what constitutes an official signature following a contentious land dispute. 

Stavros Neocleous made an offer to his neighbour for a piece of derelict land centred between both homes flanking the shore of Lake Windermere in the Lake District. 

The land in question is a mere 20ft by 10ft, resting between Mr Neocleous’ jetty and some boat houses. It housed a dilapidated shed and did not fit in with the luxury building and picturesque surroundings. 

Having offered his neighbour £175,000 for the ugly, unused land, Neocleous put the plans in action for sprucing up the space to ensure it fit in with the luxury home he built and rents out to holidaymakers.  

Unfortunately, Neocleous was left reeling after his neighbour pulled out of the deal, despite a chain of emails confirming the sale. 

A judge has now ruled in favour of the buyer, finding the email exchange to be classed as a legally binding agreement and signature. 

The judge ordered the sale, worth £175,000 to proceed.  

Having won the case, Mr Neocleous is also looking for his legal costs to be paid by the losing side, effectively wiping out the majority of profit from the sale. 

The case could have wide stretching ramifications for land law and will certainly make developers, buyers and sellers think twice before writing their emails in the future. 

Daniel Wise, Solicitor at Slater Heelis representing Mr Neocleous, commented 

“It is generally understood that the formality in buying and selling land and property is concluded in writing and signed by both parties, more commonly known as ‘exchanging. 

“Despite there being no case law on whether an email sign-off counts as a signature for a property contract the court has found that an exchange of emails in a single chain with a name at the bottom is essentially the same as a hand-written signature on a paper contract. 

“Property professionals, such as commercial directors and land agents could be committing their businesses to deals simply by entering into email correspondence. 

What impact will this case have on the legal and property sectors? 

2 Comments

  • test

    Surely this just highlights the need for all correspondence to be expressly subject-to-contract from the outset (I suspect that laziness and an over-reliance on the 1989 Act led to that not being so!) and for all e-mail footers also to be expressly subject to contract. Mine now say “This e-mail…does not form part of any contract and this footer shall not constitute a contractual signature.”

  • test

    What would be the position if all emails had been headed “Subject to contract”?

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