Massachusetts property transfers involve legal considerations that, if not taken into account, may have unintended consequences. A July 3, 2019 case before the Appeals Court of Massachusetts illustrates how some of these issues may arise. The case centered around the parties’ oral agreement for the purchase and sale of a house, and the subject of their legal dispute was the defendants’ failure to assume the mortgages on the property.
In late 2010, facing possible foreclosure on his house, the plaintiff in the case reportedly entered into an oral agreement to sell his house to the defendants. In exchange, the plaintiff would receive a cash payment, the defendants’ assumption of the mortgages on the property, and payment of all property-related expenses. In April of 2013, over two years after the defendants took possession of the house, and despite their good faith efforts, they failed to complete the assumption of the mortgage. The plaintiff then filed an action in Land Court seeking to rescind the transaction and cancel the deed to the defendants.
In Massachusetts, rescission is a potential remedy for breach of contract, but rescission is not an available remedy for any and all breaches. Generally, rescission is disfavored as a remedy for a mere failure to perform a promise. To justify the remedy, a plaintiff seeking rescission must show that the breach deprived him of the essence of the agreement. In the absence of fraud, the conduct of the defendant must be fundamentally adverse to the purpose of contact in order to be a ground for rescission of it by the other party.