Lowell 'Spirit' Grant has lost his claim against Hackney Council for compensation following the sale of his home and business at auction to an off-shore company.
"He was plainly proud of the business which he had built up since 1993. It is sad that this was taken from him " said the Judge "It is unfortunate that these offshore companies are purchasing properties and are able to avoid the same fees and taxes which others would have to pay".
Spirit had wanted to buy his property and met the Council's property agents, Nelson Bakewell, prior to the auction. Although he had handed over his cheque for £10,000 deposit, and signed a document, the property was later sold at auction for £15,000 less than Spirit had agreed to pay. The cheque was later posted back to him without explanation.
The Council's agent agreed it was possible that Spirit may have signed something at the pre-auction meeting but the Judge found that, whatever it was, it was not proved to be a sale contract. The property agents later returned the file to the Council but despite investigations by the Council's Internal Audit, and a Scrutiny Committee Inquiry, the document has never been produced .
The Council's agent said that Spirit must have known of the auction of the property well in advance because he had been there to measure it up. Why the auction catalogue described Spirit's residential flat above the shop as 'storage' remains a mystery.
The Council's agents gave evidence at the trial, which the Judge accepted, that they went ahead and auctioned the property because Spirit had told them that his cheque would not be honoured. A member of Spirit's family said on oath that they had agreed to make an immediate transfer of funds.Following a three year battle, and despite all the rent being up to date, Spirit was evicted last year for failing to pay the off-shore landlord's legal costs awarded in its possession proceedings at a time when Spirit had no legal representation. The Court of Appeal found that in the case of business tenants the Court did not have the same power, which it has for purely residential occupiers, to allow them time to pay.