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In Stack v Dowden,  UKHL 17, handed down on Wednesday, 25 April, the House of Lords dismissed Mr Stack's appeal from the Court of Appeal decision at  1 FLR 254 concerning a property which the parties had held as joint tenants for over 25 years. The issue before the House was the effect of a conveyance into the joint names of a cohabiting couple but without an explicit declaration of their respective beneficial interests in a dwelling house which was to become their home. The judge at first instance decided that there had been a common intention of the parties to share the beneficial ownership of the property in equal shares. He based this finding, at least in part, on the general notion of a partnership between them. The Court of Appeal allowed Miss Dowden's appeal from that decision on the following grounds.
The Court of Appeal awarded Miss Dowden 65% of the proceeds of sale and Mr Stack was awarded 35%. Mr Stack appealed to the House of Lords which agreed with the Court of Appeal that the parties' beneficial shares in the property should approximately reflect their financial contributions towards it.
The House of Lords inferred a common intention that the beneficial shares were unequal. This was based, not solely, on the much higher financial contribution made by Miss Dowden, as this would probably not have been determinative in isolation; it was further supported by the unusual degree of separation between the parties' financial arrangements. For a full summary of the Law Lords' speeches see June  Fam Law. The judgment is published on http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200607/ldjudgmt/jd070425/stack-1.htm. The Law Commission's final report and proposals on Cohabitation: the Financial Consequences of Relationship Breakdown is due to be published in August this year.
With thanks to James Freeman, Speechly Bircham LLP.
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