Several would-be buyers of units at the Atrium, the Rosslyn condominium embroiled in legal and financial troubles for the past two years, have been told to move out of their apartments by the building's new owners after sales negotiations between the two sides broke down.

The snag has left the future cloudy for the buyers who signed contracts and made large deposits for units at the Atrium with the building's former owners, the Knightsbridge Development Co. of McLean.

Knightsbridge went bankrupt earlier this year, and the upscale 341-unit at 1530 N. Key Blvd. was sold during the summer at a foreclosure sale to a group of lenders from around the country who originally financed the building's construction.

Since the bankruptcy, more than $900,000 in deposits from would-be buyers left with Knightsbridge is missing. That has left little doubt that the soon-to-be-evicted contract purchasers, as well as 40 to 50 others who signed contracts last year with Knightsbridge, will never again see their deposits, some of which were more than $15,000. In addition, many of the contract buyers sold their homes in 1985 and last year in anticipation of moving into the Atrium.

Last Thursday, four contract purchasers who were permitted by Knightsbridge to move into their units last year under a presettlement agreement were told by the building's new owners that the sales offers being negotiated between the two sides were being rescinded. The letter ordered them to move out of their apartments by this past Tuesday.

The would-be buyers, however, did not immediately move and charged that the Atrium's new owners never negotiated in good faith, often refusing to meet with them or return telephone calls.

"Basically, they were just shoving it all down my throat. They just gave me these documents and said, 'Here, take it or leave it,' " said Charles Llenza, one of the prospective buyers ordered to move.

Llenza said he did not agree to settle on his unit with the Atrium's new owners because the group raised his original sales price he agreed to with Knightsbridge by $4,500 -- an amount he said is inequitable.

He said the owners have also not offered the same financing deals that have been given to new buyers who signed contracts since sales began last month at the building.

In addition, he said Atrium officials conducting the sales have seldom been available to meet with the would-be buyers during the past two months of testy negotiations. Now, after a year of living in a unit he thought he would own by now, Llenza said he is angry that he was given only five days to move out after the deal fell apart.

"All this waiting and waiting and now there's a rush to get me out," said Llenza, who claimed that he stands to lose about $13,000 in deposits, legal fees, interest and other expenses with the collapse of the deal. "And now I've got to face the market that has appreciated over the past two years, plus the bad interest rates."

For their part, representatives for the owner's group claim any snags the would-be buyers now faced are of their own making.

Robert Rausch, a Fairfax attorney representing Savers Federal of Little Rock, Ark., the lead lender of the 12-member lending group that owns the Atrium, said the buyers have not "entered into a contract on the same terms, generally speaking, that we've offered to everyone else. They've just not been inclined to go forward, and there's nothing else we can do."

Rausch said that after his group ordered the four to move out of the building, one of the buyers then agreed to continue negotiations. He also said that of the 35 original Knightsbridge contract purchasers still interested in settling on their deals, eight have signed sales contracts in the past several weeks. Another 10 to 15 are in the process of signing sales contracts, while the remainder are still negotiating, he said.

Another would-be buyer said negotiations with the Atrium's owners have not been easy.

"We're under a lot of duress here with the pressure to sign these documents or leave," said the prospective buyer, who requested anonymity.

Despite the letter ordering the would-be buyers to move out by Tuesday, Rausch said his clients will be "satisfied" if they move out in the next two weeks.

Asked why only four of about 12 to 17 Atrium residents still negotiating were ordered to move, Rausch said: "Because {the others} have expressed a desire to enter into a contract."

In addition, Rausch said the prospective buyers ordered to leave have been living rent-free for more than a year under the presettlement agreement they signed with Knightsbridge.

Those allowed by Knightsbridge last year to move into what they thought would be their future homes, however, paid up to several thousand dollars each to the McLean firm for that right -- money that is tied up in an Alexandria bankruptcy proceeding involving Knightsbridge and unlikely ever to be refunded to the contract buyers.

Rausch said the lending officials involved in the negotiations with the contract buyers did not intentionally stall or mislead the purchasers, as Llenza and others have charged.

"There's been no effort to avoid these people or leave them in the dark," Rausch said.

One of those facing eviction said the Atrium's new owners have not been pleased by critical comments made in the past by some of the would-be buyers.

Most of the Atrium's contract buyers during the past 10 months have been hesitant to comment publicly on the various troubles at the posh condominium. But two of the three individuals now facing eviction -- Llenza and William Faulkner -- have both been vocal in their criticism of the negotiating problems encountered by the contract buyers.

Rausch said: "There's no retaliation taking place."

After almost a year's hiatus, the Atrium's new owners last month began selling the more than 200 unoccupied units left after Knightsbridge went bankrupt.

In the first week, 76 prospective buyers made deposits for units at the Atrium. But since then, only another 25 or so new buyers have signed contracts.

Faulkner said he has been hesitant to sign a deal with the Atrium's new owners, in part because the sellers have been unable to offer clear title on the units up for sale.

As part of the complicated bankruptcy proceedings, about $5 million in mechanics' liens have been placed against the Atrium by firms that worked on the project but were never paid by the bankrupt Knightsbridge.

What has been unclear is what financial responsibility the unit owners might have to bear because of the liens.

Rausch said new buyers have been offered so-called insured liens, meaning that any claim will be covered by insurance if a state court considering the lien dispute determines that the liens are valid.

Nonetheless, after six months of delays in moving into the Atrium that forced him to spend his time between three hotels and his parents' home, Faulkner said he has had enough of the Atrium.

Faulkner said he will move from the Atrium, but is uncertain when.

"I'm not prepared to do business their way," he said. "I'm just washing my hands of all this."