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Property Dispute: Cohabitants & Unmarried Couples

Family Law

In the case of Aspden v Elvy [2012], The Chancery Division ruled a cohabitant was entitled to a 25% share of a property to which he had contributed financially and provided labour.

This case involved a couple who ran a cattery and kennel business from a farm.  Approximately 10 years after they had moved to the farm the couple separated.  The defendant moved out to a nearby property with the parties’ two children but continued to run the business.  After another 10 years the claimant transferred the ownership of a barn to the defendant.  This barn covered the majority of the land.  The claimant continued to live on the farm in a static caravan.

The parties then took steps to convert the barn into a residential dwelling.  The conversion cost around £90,000 but a dispute then arose to the extent of the claimant’s interest in the barn.

The defendant contended that she was the absolute owner of the barn.  The claimant contended that a constructive trust had been formed as he had contributed money to the project and had carried out labouring work.  The couple disputed whether the work done by the claimant had been for the benefit of the barn and the amount of money he had contributed.  He maintained his contribution was in the region of £73,000 whilst his ex partner argued it was around £39,200.

For an implied trust to be established the claimant had to successfully argue that that it was the common intention of the parties that he should have an interest in the property as a result of his contributions.

Given the evidence the court ruled that the claimant’s account was preferable.  It was impossible to conclude that his contributions could be considered to be a gift.  The defendant had been aware that he hoped and expected to live in the barn when it was completed.  There was therefore a common intention that the claimant should have some sort of interest in the property.  The claimant was awarded a 25% share of the barn.  This was calculated on a fair assessment given the contributions made against the value of the property at the time of the case.

Cohabitants and Unmarried Couples Law, Solicitors and Lawyers in Eastbourne, Hailsham, Polegate, East Sussex

If you are a cohabiting and would like information on your legal rights please contact our Family Law Department for a free initial interview on Eastbourne 01323 727321 or Hailsham 01323 841481.

Nicholas Dennis
Nicholas Dennis
Alexandra Funnell
Alexandra Funnell
Guy Brown
Guy Brown
Carolyn Richards
Carolyn Richards