Investors who try to renege on property deals in the wake of the recession are liable to face court orders to complete, lawyers warn.
Some property buyers who signed up for city apartments as prices soared are now trying to break their contracts due to drops in value or problems borrowing for a mortgage, reports the BBC.
Many are under the impression they will lose only their deposit if they U-turn on a deal after exchanging contracts.
But lawyers say this impression is false, and the legal obligation to complete the transaction was clear.
"There is a worryingly widespread and entrenched belief among buy-to-let investors that if they decide to withdraw from a purchase for which they have exchanged contracts, that only their deposit is at risk," Jeremy Raj, of City law firm Wedlake Bell, told the BBC.
"The legal position is quite clear. They are legally obliged to complete on the transaction."
Developers have been hit as many buy-to-let investors and those seeking to make a quick profit out of property attempt to leave the market after watching house prices plummet and credit dry up.
They are putting pressure on buyers not to pull out of contracts, and can apply to a court to seek an order of "specific performance" - an injunction that makes the buyer perform his or her part of the contract and complete the purchase agreement.
Flat prices tumbled by an average 19.5% across England and Wales at their lowest.
Average prices rose to £175,776 by January 2008, according to the Land Registry, but fell again by £34,211 to £141,565 by May 2009.
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