TOLATA 1996 Applications unpredictable, expensive litigation
The House of Lords decisions in Jones v Kernott  UKSC 53 and Stack v Dowden  UKHL 17 have led to a spate of Court of Appeal decisions involving properties in the sole name of the Defendant.
All of these indicate how difficult these cases are and the importance of seeking expert legal advice.
In Geary v Rankine  EWCA Civ 555 Mrs G claimed to have an interest in Mr R’s guesthouse in Hastings. Mr R had provided all the funds for the purchase. At the time of purchase Mrs G and Mr R were living in London and intended to install a manager. Six years later Mrs G began to run the guesthouse. On that basis she claimed that she had an interest in the property and informally had become a partner in the business.
The Court of Appeal disagreed with Mrs G on both counts and said that sharing the income from a partnership would not mean that the guesthouse was a partnership business. Her claim to hold an interest in the property was also rejected. The Judge refused to find that there was any evidence that this was the common intention of Mrs G and Mr R.
In Thompson v Hurst [EWCA] Civ 30.3.2012 Ms H was the tenant of a council property and the intention was to purchase a property in joint names. The mortgage advisor persuaded them that the property should be conveyed to Ms Hurst alone. Mr T argued that the mortgage advisors involvement should not prevent him from asserting an equal interest in the equity when their joint intention had always been to purchase in joint names. The Court of Appeal disagreed with Mr T and said that there was no such presumption that they had intended to hold the property as joint tenants in equal shares.
Chapman v Jaume  EWCA Civ 476 involved Mr C moving into a house which Mrs J had acquired as a result of her divorce from Mr J. The house was registered in Mrs J’s sole name but Mr C spent approximately £130,000 on improvement works.
Mr C argued that the sum in question was a loan. Mrs J argued that the sum in question was a contribution towards general living costs.
On the first appeal before a Circuit Judge Mr C was unable to prove the terms on which he had made the loan.
On appeal to the Court of Appeal the Court found that the Judge in the Court below ought to have drawn the inference that the money was repayable within a reasonable time. The case was referred back to the Court below in order to determine Mr C’s interest.
Lessons to be learnt
Cohabitants who decide to purchase property should do so with the benefit of specialist legal advice. The cases indicate that it may be an uphill struggle to establish an interest in property unless both names are on the legal title. Litigation is a last resort. Here at Anthony Gold we have a dispute resolution service and are able to offer mediation and collaborative law in TOLATA disputes.
*Disclaimer: The information on the Anthony Gold website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. It is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.*