A couple whose family has been part of the British aristocracy for generations wants out of a $5.5 million Park Avenue co-op purchase.
Lady Eva-Marie Houstoun-Boswall and Sir Alford Houstoun-Boswall argue in a lawsuit that the pandemic made it impossible for them to move in and that they are entitled to their $535,000 deposit back.
The Houston-Boswells are baronets in the United Kingdom, a rank in the British aristocracy. Their family’s title was created in 1836 for Lieutenant General Sir William Houstoun. Alford Houstoun-Boswall is now the heir apparent.
The privileged pair — who primarily reside in London and own homes in France, the Bahamas and on East 73rd Street — were planning to buy a unit at 730 Park Avenue, based largely on its proximity to The Steiner School, where their 2-year-old son was recently accepted, according to the lawsuit.
They made their down payment in early February and had an interview with the co-op board in April via Zoom from Germany, where they ended up being stuck for nine weeks while on a planned five-day vacation, the complaint says.
During the interview, the board stressed that moving in during a pandemic would be difficult and have to take place all at once, but members still accepted the couple’s application in early April, according to the lawsuit.
The Houstoun-Boswalls’ real estate attorney then made several attempts to figure out from the seller’s attorney how his clients would be able to move in, but received nothing more than “bland replies” about the seller wanting to close, court papers say.
“While there is self-serving rhetoric about this ‘residential closing,’ the heart of the transaction — actual possession so plaintiffs can live in the apartment — is notably and glaringly absent,” the lawsuit reads.
Instead of providing the Houstoun-Boswalls with details about moving in, the seller’s attorney sent a “time is of the essence” notice on May 11 and said the couple needed to close by June 10 or be in default and lose their deposit, according to the lawsuit. This occurred despite the co-op board on April 30 banning move-ins and move-outs, according to the lawsuit.
The Houstoun-Boswalls now claim they no longer want the apartment, especially given that they have since enrolled their son at a preschool in London.
The suit is against the Andrew D. Augenblick Revocable Trust — the seller — and the law firm Katz and Matz, which prepared the contract.
Attorneys for Katz and Matz and representatives for the trust did not respond to requests for comment.
Morrell Berkowitz, who is representing the Houstoun-Boswalls in the lawsuit, said he had reached an agreement with the defendants’ attorney to keep the couple’s deposit in escrow for now.
“At least at this stage, we probably do not have to have the court intervene with a decision one way or the other,” he said.