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Louisa Gothard
Louisa Gothard
Senior Solicitor, Head of Family Law
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PROPERTY: Holman v Howes
Date:27 JUL 2007

(Court of Appeal; Dyson, Jacob and Lloyd LJJ; 27 July 2007)

After obtaining a divorce, the former husband and wife purchased a property in an attempt at reconciliation. The contract for the purchase of the property had been in the woman's sole name, but on completion the property was transferred into the man's sole name. After the man left the property, the woman and the child remained in occupation. Some years later the woman issued proceedings, seeking a declaration that she was the sole beneficial owner, claiming that she had been induced into transferring the property into the man's sole name by an assurance from the man that he would never make any claim to it. The man argued that the property had been purchased as an equal joint venture, and sought an immediate sale. The judge found that the property had been purchased as an equal joint venture, but that the man had assured the woman that she would remain in occupation for as long as she wished and that she had been induced by that assurance into transferring the legal estate into the man's name. The judge refused to make an order for sale for the time being. The woman appealed.

The appeal would be allowed. Although the post-acquisition matters relied on by the woman did not throw light on the couple's shared intention at the time of purchase, and were not indicative of any agreement between the parties at any time, the logic of the judge's finding of an assurance by the man to the woman led inexorably to the recognition that the woman should be entitled to be in possession of the property for as long as she wished.