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Court settles dispute between cohabitants over home ownership

The High Court has settled a dispute between a cohabiting couple over who should own the home they had shared until they split up.

The couple, Mr Lee Hudson and Ms Jayne Hathway, had purchased their home in joint names. They both worked and paid their respective salaries into a joint account. Over time, Hudson’s earnings overtook Hathway’s and he therefore substantially paid the mortgage.

It was common ground that, upon separation in 2013, they had agreed that he would keep his pension and shares in his sole name, and she would have the equity in the house and the bank savings.

She agreed to prepare the house for sale, but an insurance claim which had been ongoing since 2011 became protracted and caused delay.

In 2015, Hudson complained about the passage of time since their “deal” and ceased contributing to the mortgage.

He issued proceedings for an order for sale and sought a division of the proceeds.

Hathway agreed that the house should be sold but asserted that she was entitled to the whole of the proceeds under a constructive trust which she claimed had arisen out of their common intention and the agreement they had reached.

She maintained that, in reliance on the agreement, she had acted to her detriment in various ways.

The judge at the County Court hearing found in favour of Hathway.

He held that the couple’s express agreement was a clear common intention that she would have the entire equity in the property.

On that basis, she had declined to make claims against assets in Hudson’s sole name, such as his shares and pension.

The High Court has upheld that decision.

Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of family law.