Unclear Intentions in House Ownership Leads to Court Case
A recent case, which dealt with the appropriate split of the sale proceeds of a house when an unmarried couple broke up, has illustrated the need for people who sign documents to understand their meaning.
The case arose because the couple had agreed to own their house as ‘tenants in common in equal shares’, despite the fact that the female partner had paid the deposit from her own resources and had provided finance from the sale of her own house, whereas the male partner had made no such contribution.
In the High Court, the judge ruled that the house was owned in equal shares and that the woman should pay to her ex-partner (who had moved out of the house) £900 per month until it had been sold. On appeal, she argued that she had not understood the meaning of the phrase ‘joint tenants in common’ and that it was unfair for the judge to (in effect) treat her savings and contribution from the sale of her house as being from the couple’s joint savings.
The Court of Appeal’s conclusion, on the basis that there was no evidence of any discussion between them as to how the property should be owned, was that it would be unfair to regard their beneficial interests in the property as equal. Furthermore, it would be unfair to require the monthly payment to the male partner to be made, bearing in mind that the couple’s four children needed to be provided with a home.
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