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James E. Petts

James Petts’s practice is in the fields of Chancery and commercial, with a particular focus on contentious matters involving especial forensic rigour, either in terms of the law or facts, including claims involving an element of fraud or where there are serious disputes of primary fact (e.g. relating to undue influence or disputed oral agreements).

James’s interest in claims involving a significant element of fraud or dishonesty come from the first three years of his practice at the Bar in which he practised in criminal law, before going on to develop a successful Chancery and commercial practice. James is the (civil) education secretary to the Fraud Lawyers’ Association and contributes to Westlaw Topics on fraud related subjects.


James has experience of dealing with a range of property disputes, from landlord and tenant (commercial or residential) to proprietary estoppel and trust disputes (including express and constructive trusts), adverse possession claims, boundary disputes and easement/right of way disputes. James also has significant experience of property disputes in the context of contentious probate.

Recent cases

  • Acting for the claimants (franchisor and franchisee) in a claim against their landlord of commercial hospitality premises arising out of persistent water leakage into and a partial collapse of those premises.
  • Acting for claimants in relation to a right of way and boundary dispute involving residential property.
  • Acting for the claimants in relation to a boundary dispute and adverse possession claim, together with a dispute relating to private nuisance relating to the alleged instability of a steep bank, relating to adjoining residential premises.
  • Advising a party to a boundary dispute involving adverse possession of a formerly spare strip of land at the end of a garden in London that had recently been purchased by a neighbouring landowner from a developer.
  • Acting for defendants in a claim between owners of superajacent and subajacent flats in a converted terrace house in a dispute regarding legal responsibility for the structural instability of the building.
  • Acting for the claimant in a successful claim by an interior designer for unpaid fees and (mostly) unsuccessful counter-claim for allegedly defective work arising out of the refurbishment of a “gastro-pub” in Essex operated by a celebrity chef.
  • Acting for the claimant in the trial of a successful claim for monies owed for building works arising out of the refurbishment of a vineyard and visitor centre in Devon, and defending an unsuccessful counterclaim arising out of allegedly defective works.
  • Acting for the successful claimants in a claim for damages for negligent misrepresentation arising out of the purchase of a house, the misrepresentation relating to the condition of the house.
  • Acting for claimants in a claim for specific performance of a settlement agreement arising out of an intimated claim under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 for a new tenancy of commercial premises.
  • Acted for the successful respondent in an application for permission to appeal against a finding in her favour made at trial that the appellant personally, rather than the company of which he was a director, was liable for defective works carried out to her home, as well as various other matters.

Reported cases

  • Gell v. 32 St. John’s Road (Eastbourne) Management Co. Ltd. [2021] EWCA Civ. 789, [2021] 1 W. L. R. 6094, [2022] H. L. R. 5. [2021] L. & T. R. 26 – acted pro bono for the appellant in an appeal of a decision made by a circuit judge itself made on appeal. The Court of Appeal, noting that it was surprising that, in the 35 years since the passage of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the point had not been determined, ruled that the question of the reasonableness of service charges could only be determined by the court if and insofar as this was raised by the defendant in a statement of case, and thus that the defendant is not entitled to ask the court to adjudicate on this issue after his defence has been struck out (as in this case) or after default judgment has been entered.


  • LL. B. (hons. – first class) University of Reading
  • B. C. L., St. Hugh’s College, Oxford


  • Bar Standards Board Independent Decision-making Body
  • Civil education secretary, Fraud Lawyers’ Association
  • Advocacy trainer, Middle Temple

Associations & Memberships

  • Chancery Bar Association
  • Fraud Lawyers’ Association
  • London Common Law and Commercial Bar Association
  • Advocate
  • Middle Temple


  • Encyclopaedia of Forms and Precedents – vol. 3(1) auctioneers, estate agents and valuers – co-contributor, 2018 and 2022 reissues
  • Westlaw Topics – sole contributor to:
    • deceit and fraudulent misrepresentation;
    • dishonest assistance; and
    • knowing receipt
  • The substance of the rule of law – International Bar Association Journal, September 2019
  • Licences, death, wills and trespass [2023] P. C. B. 169

For more information and advice

Call: +44 (0)20 7405 0758


Pricing Policy

Unless otherwise agreed my Clerk will calculate my fees based on my current hourly rate. My rates are reviewed annually and details can be obtained from my Clerk. Once a rate is set for any particular case the hourly rate will only ever be adjusted with express agreement between my Clerks and those instructing me. All fees are subject to VAT at the prevailing rate where applicable.

James E. Petts is a self-employed, independent barrister whose practice is regulated by the Bar Standards Board [Bar Council Ref 44149]. He is fully insured with the Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund [BMIF Ref 2360/084] to provide legal services, please refer to the BMIF website for full details of the world-wide cover provided. He is registered for VAT under the reference 661114567.

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