When considering the issue of ownership of property, there are many considerations to make especially when the ownership falls between more than one people. Property in land is one of the things that are taken largely by the UK government to be the most important forms of property ownership. This paper looks at the given study in a bid to determine the kind of ownership issues that arise in this case, and the way the courts in the UK and other common law jurisdictions have approached the matter of ownership and possession of property.
When considering the issue of ownership of property, one of the most basic concepts of the ownership process is the two kinds of ownership available to the parties acquiring a property. One kind of ownership is joint tenancy of a property. In this kind of ownership, the parties that make up the entire owning party are considered in law as a single entity. When one of the owners die, the right of ownership passes to the surviving members of the group of owners, until the last surviving member of the group gains sole right to the ownership of the property. This definition was established in the case of Burton V Camden LBC (2000). On the individual basis, the parties own nothing on the property, but as a group/ unit, they can exercise rights over the property. In this case then, we notice that this was not the case, despite the two men registering the property under only one name (Clifford). For the purposes of joint tenancy, all the names of the tenants or owners must be registered.
The tenancy that appears in this case is common tenancy, which is an equitable form of property ownership, where each party has their own share in the property in question (Harley). It could occur in three ways, namely: the individuality in share of the property, no rights of survivorship, the application of the unities of ownership and the right to unequally own the property in question. These are some of the issues that we are going to sample in this case study and determine the position of the courts concerning the estate that the two co-own.
The application of Unities of Ownership
The unities of ownership of property are the four tests that ensure that the satisfaction of the requirement of the tenancy in common will be met. In the law, the four unities apply namely those of interest, time, title and possession. In some instances, it has been noted that the unities are not fully adhered to and the courts will determine the existence of a tenancy in common or common ownership using a balance of probabilities.
The unity of interest is dictated by the share of property ownership that each party has in the property. Interest is simply making sure that there has been material contribution to the ownership of the property by both parties. For example, in the purchase of a property, interest will arise where one of the parties contributes to the buying of the property in whatever share. Interest doesnt necessarily dictate that the share in property must be the same, so long as there is a contribution to the purchase of the property. Unity of title on the other hand suggests that the owners of the property must hold the property under one name. In this instance, this is indeed the case where the property was held under the name of one owner, while the other owner didnt have his name registered, but it was known that he had participated in the purchase of the property in question. Receipts to this effect could be produced as evidence to the interest in the property that the other party had despite not having his name on the title document.
The unity of time is more concerned with ensuring that the particular transaction happened within reasonable time of the claim that the two parties are co-owners. The simplicity of this principle is that if the co-owners can prove that indeed they conducted the same transaction together towards the acquisition of the property, then the transaction will be noted as a valid transaction and ownership will be found. Finally, the fourth unity demands the unity of possession. In this unity, all co-owners have equal access and right to the use of the land without unreasonable restrictions. However in some cases, the agreement in the acquisition of land expressly states how the use of land for the particular ownership relationship will occur. In such a case, the agreement will be legally binding before a court and action could be taken against its breach. This was established in the case of Goodman V Gallant, where when one of the co-owners who had agreed to own the property on a 50-50 basis with her ex-husband tried to assert that she owned 75% of the property, the court ruled that this couldnt be the case as the terms of the contract that they had made were legally binding on both parties (E-Law Resources UK).
The situation of equity has been known to precede issues where the tenancy terms are in dispute, especially regarding the sharing of property. In this case, for example, the situation exists where there was borrowing of funds from more than one mortgage agent, leading to the need for equity to intervene in this situation. Furthermore, the requirement is one of necessity as the situation in this case is where one of the co-owners had decided to go and take out another mortgage on the house without informing the other co-owner on the proceedings of their activities. This can lead to the determination of two situations: severance of the co-ownership situation or the shared liability of the effects of the second mortgage on the property.
It is important that the property can be looked at from the perspective of partnership property because of Tonys contribution of his work to the refurbishing of the house using his own resources as a workman in the area. Furthermore, his job allowed him to later begin to give an equal share towards the payment of the mortgage. As such, the relationship of the tow concerning the ownership of property is that there was an establishment of the unity of interest in the property. As such, Tony can assert his legal position as a trustee of the property because his name was not included within the title document of the property.
This was established in the case of Stack V Dowden. This case has been used as a principle in determining the interests that the persons in an ownership relationship of a property have towards the beneficial interest in that particular property. In this case for example, the judge laid out a number of principles that ensured that the beneficial interests of one party were preserved in a relationship where an express trust was not stated, and there was no express declaration of co-ownership of property, but there was a beneficial interest relationship such as this case (Huber). Beneficial interests arise in any number of situations, including when the relationship between the two co-owners has gone sour. This was the case in Pettit V Pettit, where certain restrictions were put on this particular principle.
In this case, husband and wife had parted ways, after which the husband begun to claim interest in new properties that the wife had bought asserting that he had made repairs to the house at certain costs that he thought the wife should bear in the instance of the divorce. The court held that it was impossible to reimburse every cost that was claimed, which were initially made under the impression that the couple was only making sure that their stay in the house was more pleasurable. Individual interests of bitterness from the scattering of the relationship couldnt be upheld and instituted by the court (E-Law Resources UK).
However, in cases where there is truthful and legal bases upon which an aversion of justice has occurred, the court will consider the merits of each case separately based on the principles laid out in Stack V Dowden. In this case, the two parties were cohabiting in a jointly bought house. The share of the moneys contributed towards the purchase of the property was different, and the overall effect of the moneys paid had different directions on both of them. Despite Ms Dowden having little initial capital to purchase the house, most of the utilities she ensured that she covered while the rest of the issues were settled by Mr. Stack. After their separation, the issue of interest in the property came up for determination. The couple in this case had intended that they have completely different shares in the property, which was clearly put out in the argument of the case for Ms Dowden, who demanded 65% interest in the property.
The adducing of evidence towards this is going to be extremely substantial if Tony is to make his case. The evidence required in this case would be for the severance of the contract to co-own the property by virtue of the other co-owner going out on his own to contract with another mortgage agent on the property. As such, the interest belonging to George could be determined for the sake of the court determining the amount that George would have to pay to the second agents without effect to Tony.
The other option that Tony would have is to prove that indeed they had similar interests in the property, but different stakes. As such, the mortgage agent who was after the payment that they made to George would not be allowed to follow after his interest in his share of the property by virtue of being an innocent third party to the transaction. The mortgage company could go ahead and sue George for their losses as a result of the major misrepresentation that he made to them concerning the existence of a trust relationship despite having sole proprietorship of the property in question.
In conclusion, it is necessary for Tony to prove the existence of the trust relationship or the severance of the ownership relationship. After that, he can prove that he has a share in the property, which needs be protected.
BIBLIOGRAPHY Clifford, Dennis. Plan your Estate. New York: Nolo, 2001.
E-Law Resources UK. Goodman V Gallant. 1986. 16 November 2015 <http://e-lawresources.co.uk/Land/Goodman-v-Gallant.php>.
. Pettit V Pettit. 1970. 16 November 2015 <http://e-lawresources.co.uk/Land/Pettitt-v-Pettitt.php>.
Harley, M. Monthly Nutshell: What is a Joint Tenancy vs Tenancy in Common? (Land Law) . 2013. 16 November 2015 <http://uklawstudent.thomsonreuters.com/2013/02/monthly-nutshell-what-is-a-joint-tenancy-vs-tenancy-in-common-land-law/>.
Huber, R. "Creditors' Rights in Tenancies by the Entireties." Boston College Law Review (1959).
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