One Pound, plus other considerations
I have recently concluded the sale of a narrowboat, but in the closing stages of the deal, the vendor became very suspicious of myself, of Boatshed, and the boat world in general.
He had owned his boat for a couple of years and was selling after saving up to put the deposit down on a flat. He was trying to sell the boat privately, but the photos were of poor quality and the description not very clear. I got in touch to see if he would like help from a professional broker. It is important to highlight this; I had sought him out, rather than a boat owner contacting a broker, which is more usual. This may have been at the root of the future problems.
I visited the boat and spent a good couple of hours getting familiar with it, explaining Boatshed’s approach and getting to know the owner a little. I felt that it was a good boat, and he had reasonable expectations on what the boat was worth. So in addition to giving him a very competitive commission percentage, I also offered to store the boat on one of our moorings in west London. This was a valuable benefit to the vendor, as he wanted to move into his flat and not have to move the boat every two weeks.
I sent our standard Listing Agreement but the vendor immediately queried an aspect of the agreement. He interpreted one of the clauses to mean Boatshed would be able to claim their commission even after the agreement was terminated, for a period of 12 months. If this was the intention of the clause, I would agree to it being unreasonable. But, of course, it isn’t, it is there to prevent a vendor and the buyer doing a private deal and cutting out the broker. I never did manage to convince him of this, and in the end had to write him an email stating that Boatshed would not attempt to claim the commission on a sale they had not been involved in.
Then came the mooring agreement. I was offering him three months free mooring. I think this shows that I am confident in selling the boat within this period, as the mooring isn’t free for me, I pay the mooring fees like any other boater. Our Listing Agreement specifies a 6 month term, so after the initial three months, I ask the vendor to pay the mooring fees. This incentivises the vendor to agree a sensible asking price, so we have a real chance of selling the boat within a reasonable timeframe. He wouldn’t agree to this, and in the end I had to concede that if we had not sold the boat within the three months, he could take the boat out of the marina, as long as he allowed me to still keep marketing the boat and have a chance of recouping my costs.
Fortunately, after several viewings, I got someone really interested. They put forward an offer and this was quickly accepted. I drew up the Sale Purchase Agreement, which is the contract between the buyer and the seller, essentially declaring that both parties are willing to buy/sell the boat for the agreed price. It is also where we specify any conditions of the sale, such as subject to survey, or successful transfer of the mooring. Neither were applicable in this case.
Because there was no survey (the buyer was satisfied with the previous survey and was confident in the overall condition of the boat) we could move to completion quite rapidly. I made the request for the funds and these were transfered to the Boatshed Client Account. This is an account managed by Boatshed HQ, and the Accounts Team. I get notified of the transaction but have no access to the account.
I drew up the Bill of Sale and sent it to the vendor for signature. However, he refused to sign the Bill of Sale and was alarmed that the boat was being sold for £1. We use a Bill of Sale template supplied by the MCA (Maritime & Coastguard Agency) on which reads ‘Enter £1 plus other considerations’ below the box used to enter the sum of money. I explained to him that this was normal practice.
The Bill of Sale is a record of the transfer of ownership, rather than specifying the obligations of the buyer. I stressed the point that this was a document for the buyer, to show ownership, but I was making little headway.
It suffices to say: I am not legally trained, but my understanding of this ‘inflammatory’ phrase is thus: any legal transaction must involve an exchange of something of value, a consideration if you will. The obligation of the buyer is far more thoroughly specified in the Sale Purchase Agreement, and it could lead to contradiction or error if the actual transaction amount is recorded on a separate document. It is also understood that a new owner may not want to reveal how much they paid for a vessel, particularly when selling the vessel on.
At this point, the vendor was not only refusing to sign the Bill of Sale, but started to suggest that I was attempting to scam him, claiming that he was being forced to sell his boat for a pound, with no access to his boat and no money in his account.
It is important to remember that, as a broker, I am representing the vendor throughout the sale process, and I believe a certain amount of trust is required in that relationship. There was clearly no trust on his part. In fact, suggesting that there should be, seemed to only enrage him further.
In the end I drew up a new Bill of Sale that did specify the amount, which he then signed. After the money was transferred to his account I asked him to sign the original ‘£1, plus other considerations’ Bill of Sale, which I also handed over to the buyer.
Trust can be hard won.