Savills has been fined more than £7,500 for letting a buyer believe the apartment he was purchasing was on the ground floor rather than the basement.

The buyer, a music teacher in his 40s, bought the £125,000 flat in Plumstead, south east London, at auction based on the description and pictures in the auction brochure.

But Westminster Magistrates Court heard that the pictures and written information in the brochure, for an auction in May 2007, were inaccurate.

This week Savills reached an undisclosed settlement with the buyer after pleading guilty to two charges under the Property Misdiscriptions Act 1991 at the end of July.

The company was also order to pay £7,512 in fines and legal costs by the court.

‘I find that the company bore significant responsibility, vicariously spread through the company,’ said district judge Michael Snow.

He also said the agent involved behaved with a ‘cavalier attitude’.

Unbelievably he used the description of the property without visiting the premises,’ he said. ‘At the very least he was negligent and certainly reckless.’

A statement from Savills said: ‘This was the result of a genuine error for which Savills has apologised unreservedly to the buyer.

‘Regrettably, in the preparation of the auction catalogue we inadvisably relied upon information supplied by a third party, resulting in this particular property being offered for sale without prior inspection by a company employee.

‘We made compensation proposals, which were accepted, and we believe that the matter has been resolved to everyone's satisfaction.’

The court case was brought by Westminster Council following a complaint from the buyer.

‘I hope this prosecution sends a stark warning to all estate agents that they cannot cut corners and they have a legal duty to be diligent when preparing this kind of information,’ said Sue Jones, head of Westminster’s trading standards department.