Introduction – a not-so-hypothetical situation
Imagine that you are an early house buyer. The developer promises you serene views, lush beautiful greenery, next to the quiet and refreshing forest. So you buy it, and you are delighted that you wake up each morning to the views of monkeys swinging on the trees. Then, the developer starts building shops, and more houses, advertising a “cosy community”, with views of the forest, etc. People start flocking to the place like they really like it. The second phase gets sold out, and they launch a third phase. “New township! Excellent public infrastructure. A growing community and ample business opportunities!” Trees get chopped down, forests are cleared, and maybe a shopping mall is built. Things get really busy, and the place begins to feel crowded. Meanwhile, you as an early house buyer, may feel out of place. The lush greenery and beautiful views have all been taken away. Your house is now nearby the highway, with the main road just behind your house. Sure, the value of the property has gone up tremendously, but what about the days of waking up to the smell of fresh green trees, and hearing the screeching sounds of hooting monkeys?
If that feels like your story, maybe you have wondered what rights you have as a house buyer. Do you have any rights to object to subsequent developments by the developer, who seems hellbent on turning the beautiful, “close to nature” housing project, into a booming township?
Or, consider another not-so-hypothetical story. (We are not naming any names, so, please do not assume that we are talking about any developer in particular.)
A developer builds a housing project with beautiful views of a lake. The serene lake is, indeed, a beautiful view, and residents enjoy walking around it as a form of exercise. The housing project sells out quickly, thanks to the beautiful view. Now, imagine that you’re one of the early house buyers. To your horror, you learn that the developer is thinking of cashing in on the popularity of the beautiful lake view by building — gasp! — condominiums next to the lake. Obviously, your view of the lake would be obscured by the condominiums, which now sit at a corner of the lake. Instead of waking up to a shimmering lake, you would wake up to the view of a beautiful condominium. Nothing wrong with that, but you miss your view of the lake.
When a housing project does well, it does really well, and when people like a housing project, it’s for a good reason. And in your case, as the early house buyer, you liked it because of the view. You thought that you would be able to see the lake, for a good number of years. “How nice,” you thought, when you first moved in. But your feelings turned to bitterness when the new condominiums were announced.
But the important question would be, is there a case for you to file against the developer, to stop them from building the condominiums ? Could you plead that you have been “promised” a view of the lake, in the brochures, and the marketing materials, and therefore, it is a fundamental part of the sale and purchase agreement? Which, if it were true, would be infringed by the developer’s act of developing condominiums that block your view.
We asked ChatGPT about this, and wondered what it would say.
A poem about the woes of the early house buyers.
Oh the views of the lake, they were grand and so bright,
A sight to behold both day and night.
The early house buyers, they took the bait,
With promises made by the housing developer’s gait.
They bought their homes with a view so serene,
Of the lake’s sparkling water, a sight they’d always seen.
But now the developer wants to build with glee,
Condos right next to the lake, blocking all to see.
Oh how the buyers cry, with voices so loud,
“Our view is now ruined, it’s simply not allowed!”
They were promised a vista, so peaceful and bright,
But the condos have blocked it from morning to night.
So the buyers they stand, with fists in the air,
“This view is what we were promised, it’s just not fair!”
They trusted the developer, with words so pure,
But now the view is gone, leaving them unsure.
So let this be a lesson, for all to keep in mind,
That promises made, should be honored and kind.
And the buyers, they’ll fight, for what they were sold,
A view of the lake, now worth more than gold.
(The poem was made in response to a request for a “Dr Seuss poem” on the topic.)
Here is a hypothetical letter of protest to the developer
Dear Housing Developer,
We are writing this letter as a group of early house buyers who purchased our homes in the Arboreal Lakehouses (fictitious project name, not a real one!) based on the representations and promises you made about the beautiful view of the lake.
When we first saw the view of the lake, we were completely enamored by its beauty and serenity. It was one of the main reasons why we decided to buy our homes in your project. We trusted that the view would remain unchanged and that we would have the pleasure of waking up to the stunning vista every morning for years to come.
However, we were shocked and disappointed to learn that you are now planning to build condominiums next to the lake. This will completely obstruct the view that we were promised and were so excited to enjoy. We feel as if we have been baited and switched, and that you have given us false expectations.
We understand that you have the right to develop your property as you see fit, but we also have the right to expect that the representations and promises you made will be upheld. Building these condominiums will not only cause us significant financial harm, but it will also cause us immeasurable emotional distress. We will be unable to view the lake, as we have been doing for years.
We implore you to reconsider your plans to build the condominiums and to respect the representations and promises that you made to us when we bought our homes. We ask that you consider the impact that this will have on our lives and the lives of our families, and that you act with integrity and fairness.
We look forward to hearing from you and to finding a resolution that is fair and just for all parties involved. Please preserve the lake view for the early house buyers!
The Early House Buyers
Even though this is a hypothetical situation, yet, it happens all over the world. Where a housing project has phase 1, 2, and 3, phase 1 gets marketed as a project with beautiful greenery, nice views, etc. and phase 2 gets marketed as a project with a ready community. Phase 3 is marketed with an emphasis of available amenity, business opportunity etc.
The problem is that there will be a house buyer who buys into the housing project, expecting to enjoy certain features perpetually — or at least a reasonably long period of time. The house buyer may not appreciate the changing situation, but he cannot claim a right over the properties that belong to the developer!
Or, could he? Hmmm…..
There may be a case to be pursued, but it is a novel claim (if any). A claim for misrepresentation means that the cause of action is rooted in contract law; and it would depend on whether the beautiful lake view was an integral part of the advertising of the housing development. But a clever developer may well argue that, yes, there was a representation of a beautiful lake view, but, firstly, the view has only been partially obscured (the house buyers can walk around the condominium to see the whole lake) and secondly, perhaps there was no guarantee that the lake view would remain the same in perpetuity. The developer may even argue that the other lands around the housing development belong to the developer, and the developer has full rights to develop the land as it deems fit. (But the house buyer may show that the brochure for the property did not disclose the later developments, which would have made an impact on the house buyer’s decision to purchase the property.)
Another, less common approach, is to argue it from the law of easements. Basically, easements are a right of non-owners to claim a right over another person’s land, because a portion of it has been used for passage to a certain adjoining land. The easement can be registered on the land title, under the National Land Code. What is unclear whether easement is available for early house buyers to claim an uninterrupted and unobscured view of the lake; and whether a “view” can be considered an easement. But pleading an “easement” angle roots the claim in land law.
Conclusion – by ChatGPT
Here is what ChatGPT has to say on the matter:
In general, if the developer made promises or representations about the view of the lake, and these promises or representations were an important factor in the decision of the house purchasers to buy the property, the house purchasers may have a cause of action for misrepresentation or fraud. Additionally, if local zoning laws and regulations prohibit the construction of the condominiums, the house purchasers may have a cause of action based on the violation of these laws. However, if the developer had the right to build the condominiums and the view was not specifically promised or guaranteed, the house purchasers may not have a strong case for any cause of action. It is important to review all relevant contracts, laws, and regulations to determine the specific legal rights and remedies available in this situation.
Thanks for reading!
This article was prepared to provide general information. Please do not consider it as legal advice. In any case, we have not considered your unique circumstances and your circumstances may be different. Please consult with a professional legal practitioner before making any decision.