Man told to pay £360,000 or lose flat after council undercharged him

Council demands extra £360,000 from the man they sold Islington flat to five years ago… after realising his Right-to-Buy home actually has TWO bedrooms and not just one

  • Antony Zomparelli bought his two-bed flat from Islington Council for £340,000 after renting for 13 years
  • Two years later the council told him they had charged him the wrong price and he should have paid £700,000
  • The 54-year-old security guard is battling council but fears he will lose home anyway because of legal costs

A homeowner has been told to pay £360,000 or face losing his home after the council mistakenly sold him a £700,000 flat at half price.

Antony Zomparelli, 54, bought his two-bed flat from Islington Borough Council for £340,000 in 2014, under the Right to Buy scheme which allows council tenants to purchase their homes.

But two years later the council wrote to the security guard, admitting they had accidentally undercharged him because they thought the home only had one bedroom.

The father-of-four was unable to fork out the difference – so the council is taking him to court to reclaim ownership of his flat or the money they claim he owes.

Unhappy homeowner: Antony Zomparelli in his sitting room in the Georgian flat he bought through Right To Buy in 2014. The 54-year-old security guard has been told to pay an extra £360,000 which he cannot afford 

The Georgian flat in Islington is marked in red. Two years after Mr Zomparelli bought it the council wrote to the security guard, admitting they had accidentally undercharged him because they thought the home only had one bedroom

What is the Right to Buy scheme? 

Right to Buy allows council flat tenants to buy their own homes with a discount of up to £108,000. 

Tenants must have been renting the property for at least three years – reduced from five in 2015 – before they can apply to buy the home. 

The discount is higher in London because of the much greater property prices in the capital.  

In 2017-18 the average receipt for a council home was around £83,000, according to government figures. 

The sales of council homes brought in almost $1billion for local authorities over the same period.  

The scheme was introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Government in the 1980s. 

It was credited with helping the Tories win the support of ‘aspirational’ working-class voters. 

However it has also been blamed for reducing the stock of affordable rental housing.  

Mr Zomparelli, who lives in the second floor flat alone, says the ‘unforgivable’ mistake has ruled his life ever since and is preparing for a court battle later this year.

However he fears he will lose the home regardless of the outcome because of legal costs.   

He said: ‘I would never have bought the property if I knew it was going to cost £700,000. It would never have crossed my mind.

‘How can they expect me to afford to pay? It has ruined my life. I can’t function as a normal person or think straight.

‘It has caused me depression and I’ve had to go to the doctor’s. It has put a massive strain on my relationship with friends and family. I’ve been in la la land since I got the first letter.

‘I just couldn’t believe it. I can’t understand how they can do this, it seems impossible. They’ve clearly made a massive mistake and it’s of no fault of my own.’

Mr Zomparelli has lived in the flat in Islington since 2001, and originally rented it from the council.

He bought it from the authority under the Right To Buy scheme in 2014, and because he’d lived there for so long he got an £102,700 discount.

According to a property website the current average value of a property in the Islington street is £930,000.  

Bedroom: Inside Mr Zomparelli’s Georgian home which he bought for £340,000 in 2014. He is battling the council over the money it has demanded and says he is likely to lose the home even if he wins because of legal fees 

The kitchen of Mr Zomparelli’s Georgian home which he had rented from the London Borough of Islington since 2001, and then bought for himself in 2014 under the Right To Buy scheme first introduced in the 1980s 

The council priced it at £340,000 in August 2013 and he got a £237,300 mortgage – for the remaining amount after the discount – in 2014. 

But two years later, in 2016, he received a shocking letter from the council explaining the blunder, and demanding the remaining £360,000.

The council admitted it valued the home as a one-bed in a ‘desktop’ valuation – a way of valuing a property or business using existing information.

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In legal documents Mr Zomparelli claims that before the sale took place, an independent surveyor conducted a site survey of the flat, while the council is claiming he has been ‘unjustly enriched’ by the apparent admin blunder.

In a letter to Antony in March 2016, the council explained where a public body ‘acts outside their jurisdiction, their decision is void’.

The letter included the council’s admission that it ‘had no power to dispose of the premises at a lower valuation than that based on market value’.

The bathroom of the home which Mr Zomparelli bought for £340,000 but which the council said should have cost £700,000

Living room: Inside the Georgian flat, which has led to a court battle as the London borough council tries to reclaim ownership of his flat or the money they claim he owes

Kitchen equipment at Mr Zomparelli’s home. The council tried to settle outside court but the efforts were unsuccessful 

As a result, the council is entitled to recover the funds, ‘by way of restitution for unjust enrichment’, the letter said.

Lawyers acting on behalf of the council tried to settle outside of court and offered Mr Zomparelli the option to agree terms for ‘restoration of the balance’ of the purchase price.

But the two parties failed to agree terms, and in a letter sent to him in October 2017, he was issued an ultimatum – either accept liability to pay up, or enter a legal battle.

Court papers prepared for proceedings say the council has a duty to recover the missing £360,000, as they acted outside their statutory powers by granting the lease at an undervalue. 

Both parties have prepared court papers but a start date for proceedings is yet to be confirmed.

Worried Mr Zomparelli said: ‘Up until 2016 everything was completely fine. I first heard about all of this when the council sent me a pretty aggressive letter. It even said “we understand this letter may cause you some distress”.

‘They told me by letter my property had been undervalued and we need to resolve the £360,000 I now owe them.

‘Even my barrister has said he has no idea what the outcome will be.

Mr Zomparelli in his kitchen. The council told him it ‘had no power to dispose of the premises at a lower valuation than that based on market value’

The street in north London where Mr Zomparelli lives. He claims he would never have bought the house if it was on the market for £700,000

‘I have no idea how they can justify asking for that much more money. It has always been a two-bed flat. It was never a one-bed. It’s madness really. They have doubled the price of a property based on a box room.’

The homeowner fears that even if he wins in court he will have to sell his flat to pay for the legal bill – which he fears could top £60,000.

He said: ‘No matter what happens I will have to sell the property to pay my legal fees.

‘If I win I’ll get the fee back for my barrister but I’ll have to pay some costs for my solicitor and mortgage company. 

‘I wasn’t surprised at the price when I bought it. It was the first time I’d ever bought a property so it seemed a lot of money to me.

‘I wanted to get on the property ladder for my children and I was really happy. ‘I wanted to make my children’s lives easier for when they want a home. I thought it was odd how they valued it on a computer but I was ensured it was normal. 

‘The most unjust part of it is I will still lose the property even if I win. I can’t get my head around it, even if I win I know I’ll still be losing.’

Islington Borough Council has not responded to a request for comment. 

Mr Zomparelli measures the box room for which he is expected to pay an extra £360,000, after buying the flat in 2014

Two sofas, a television and a fireplace in the flat where the council now say they acted outside their statutory powers by granting the lease at an undervalue

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