PROPERTY: Stack v Dowden [2007] UKHL 17

25 APR 2007

(House of Lords; Lord Hoffmann, Lord Hope of Craighead, Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury; 25 April 2007) [2007] The Times April 26

The starting point in a case of joint legal ownership was joint beneficial ownership. A conveyance of a domestic property into joint names indicated both legal and beneficial joint tenancy, unless and until the contrary was proved. The burden would be upon the person seeking to show that the parties did intend their beneficial interests to be different from their legal interests. Many factors other than financial contribution were likely to be relevant, eg advice or discussions at the time of the transfer, reasons for acquisition in joint names, purpose of the home, financing of the purchase, and financing of the household. Cases in which joint legal owners would be taken to have intended that their beneficial interests should be different from their legal interests would be very unusual. Curiously in the context of homes conveyed into joint names, but without an express declaration of trust, the courts had sometimes reverted to the strict application of the principle of the resulting trust. The approach to quantification in cases in which the home was conveyed into joint names should certainly be no stricter than the approach to quantification in cases in which it had been conveyed into the name of one only, and to the extent that Walker v Hall [1984] FLR 126, Springette v Defoe [1992] 2 FLR 388 and Huntingford v Hobbs [1993] 1 FLR 736 held otherwise, they should not be followed. However, this case was a very unusual one, in that although the couple had cohabited for a long time and had four children together, they had kept their financial affairs rigidly separate. This was strongly indicative that they did not intend their share, even in the property in joint names, to be held equally. The woman had made good her claim for 65% of the property, having contributed far more to the acquisition of the house than had the man.

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