Mayo County Council has distanced itself from the sale of 14 homes in Ballinrobe, where purchasers have claimed they were left "high and dry".
A Facebook post by the estate agent handling Military Close in the Mayo town announced at the start of this month that the homes in Phase One of the site had sold out, but potential buyers were told last week that their deposits would be returned as the houses — 13 three-beds and one four-bed — had been sold to a single buyer instead.
The estate agent handling the purchase did not respond to queries from the Mayo County Council have no role in this development"., but Mayo County Council said that it did not make the purchase. A spokesperson said that they would "like to confirm
The registered owner of the site is a company named Greendrive Asset Holdings Limited, which purchased it in 2021, according to land records. The 2021 sale of the land would have been exempt from Capital Gains Tax under a 2012 scheme which allowed properties bought between 2011 and 2014 to be exempt from gains taxes if it was sold within seven years.
A request for comment from another company linked to the shareholders of Greendrive Asset Holdings was not returned.
One person impacted by the sale said that while deposits paid on the homes will be refunded, affected buyers may not receive their solicitors' fees.
The case has sparked calls for changes to legislation, with Cian O'Callaghan, the Social Democrats' housing spokesperson, saying that the practice of "gazumping" should be made illegal.
“This kind of despicable practice must end," he said. "Once deposits have been paid, and parties are sale agreed, there should be no facility for the vendor to renege on the agreements and accept a higher offer.
“At least one of the home buyers in Mayo is a renter who faces eviction and must now face the process of starting from scratch to find a home to buy.
“Gazumping is not just bad for home buyers, it is also bad for the property market. It can result in bidding wars that drive property inflation and instability in the market.
“Other countries have successfully introduced anti-gazumping contracts which mean that once a property is sale agreed, and a deposit has been paid, vendors cannot renege on the deal."