Co-ownership problem question
In December 2000, Burton, Henry and Lester purchased Number 7, Clarendon Park Lane, Leicester, where they all lived with Lester’s daughter Alison. Burton provided 90 per cent of the purchase price and Henry and Lester each provided 5 per cent. The house was conveyed to the three of them as “as joint tenants in law and equity”.
Last Tuesday evening, a heated argument broke out over whose turn it was to wash the dishes. Burton announced that he couldn’t bear to live with the others a moment longer and offered to buy out Henry and Lester. Henry agreed to this immediately and promised to visit his solicitor about this the next morning. Lester replied that he didn’t want to move and would rather buy out Burton himself. Burton rejected this idea and another heated debate ensued. Around midnight they retired to bed leaving the matter unresolved. The next morning, Burton and Henry were found dead in their beds.
The police are investigating the deaths and suspect that Lester may have murdered Burton and Henry. Burton and Henry both willed all their property to their friend Jean. Jean believes she is entitled to a 95 per cent share in Number 7 and would like the house to be sold, in order that she can pay off various debts. Lester believes he is now the absolute owner and has no intention of selling the house.
· A trust of land arises where there are concurrent interests in land (i.e. where more than one person holds interests in the land at the same time). Accordingly, the persons holding the interests are co-owners. Today, for practical purposes, there are two types of co-ownership – joint tenancy and tenancy in common. In cases of co-ownership it is vital to distinguish between ownership at law and ownership in equity.
· Since 1 January 1926, the legal estate in the case of co-owned land must be held on a joint tenancy – s.1(6) LPA 1925. Here, the legal estate will be so held by Burton, Henry and Lester
· Although the legal estate in co-owned land must always be held on a joint tenancy, the equitable interest can be held on either a joint tenancy or a tenancy in common. In determining how the equitable interest is held, the general rule is that a grant to two or more persons without words of severance (words in the grant which show that the tenants are each to take a distinct share in the property) creates a beneficial joint tenancy. To this rule there are two qualifications:
· First, there are certain circumstances in which equity will presume that a TIC was intended unless there was an express indication to the contrary. Second, a JT cannot exist without the presence of the four unities – time, title, interest and possession. On the facts there are no words of severance here.
· One of the circumstances in which equity may presume a TIC was intended is where, as here, the co-owners purchasing the property have put up the purchase money in unequal contributions. Here, we...