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Co-ownership of Property - Pitfalls to be Aware of

Former co-habitees Leonard Kernott and Patricia Jones took their legal battle to The Court of Appeal in May this year. 

Miss Jones and Mr Kernott had bought a property together in 1985 with a deposit provided by Miss Jones, together with a mortgage - the repayments of which were shared between them.  The property was in their joint names. 

In 1993, Mr Kernott moved out and Miss Jones remained in the house with their 2 children, she continued to make all the mortgage repayments.  Mr Kernott subsequently purchased another property and approximately 12 years after their separation, Mr Kernott sought a payment of his half (50%) of the property he had jointly purchased with Miss Jones.

Miss Jones issued proceedings to seek a declaration that she owned the entire beneficial interest in the property (100%).  At the first hearing, the court decided Miss Jones should have 90% and Mr Kernott should have 10%, this decision was appealed by Mr Kernott.

The Appeal decided that declaring the share of the joint interest in the property as a 90% - 10% split was wrong.  The conveyance into joint names created joint beneficial interests in the property and the parties agreed, when they separated, that they had equal shares.  Just because Mr Kernott had taken 12 years to seek his share did not mean Miss Jones had acquired a greater than 50% interest in the property.  The court ruled that if Mr Kernott and Miss Jones had truly intended for Mr Kernott’s beneficial interests to reduce post-separation then they would have acted accordingly and adjusted their beneficial interests.

This acts as a warning to anyone purchasing residential accommodation, particularly if they are unmarried.  It is important that they address their minds to the size and therefore fate of their respective beneficial interests at the point of purchase, separation and thereafter and ensure, if necessary, the appropriate legal advice should be sought and clearly documented.

If you would like advice on situations such as this, contact me on 01743 280280 or email me at sue.hodgson@lblaw.co.uk.