Tiggy Butler hired top London estate agency Rokstone to sell her Chester Terrace home, but refused to hand over £318,000 in commission when the deal was done in February 2021.
Instead she claimed she had been left £1.75 million out of pocket in the sale, sparking a legal battle with “super-prime” property expert Becky Fatemi, founder of Rokstone. Her claims were dismissed in March, as a judge ordered Ms Butler to pay nearly £600,000 including the commission and legal costs.
The designer, who specialises in restoring multi-million-pound historic mansions, did not settle the bill and at Central London county court this week she was found in contempt of court for failing to turn up.
In her absence, Ms Butler was given a 14-day suspended prison sentence. She has a final chance to attend court on July 11, or face arrest and a spell in Pentonville prison. She told the Standard she had apologised for not turning up and said she is now applying for bankruptcy.
She said she had told her lawyer and believed the court hearing would be cancelled. She added she was “really very shocked” about the court finding, but believes the bankruptcy proceedings will settle the payments due to Rokstone.
Speaking to the Standard, Ms Fatemi called the two-year legal saga “horrific”, describing how she has had to foot mounting lawyers’ bills and hire private investigators to hunt down Ms Butler, and said she still has not been paid commission for the hard-fought house sale. “I’m bitter and I’m saddened,” she said. “We stood firm on this and we won. But we haven’t really won because she still hasn’t paid me.”
Ms Butler bought the mansion in 2014, with views across Regent’s Park in one of the capital’s most coveted locations.
After a two-year renovation, it was put on the market for £14.5 million but a series of agencies failed to land a sale.
Ms Fatemi said Rokstone “saved” Ms Butler by securing a sale to Saudi tycoons that staved off the threat of repossession. But after asking for the unpaid commission, they were hit with a counter-claim from Ms Butler.
After a civil trial, Judge Alan Johns rejected suggestions Rokstone could be held responsible for the difference between the original and final sale price, and dismissed a claim of negligence over alleged missed sale opportunities.
Ms Fatemi, recently invited to a reception with King Charles to celebrate small businesses, said she fears firms like hers need better protection from clients unwilling to settle bills. Suggesting Ms Butler had been “on the run”, Ms Fatemi said her legal team have resorted to serving legal notices on her via WhatsApp.