(Court of Appeal, Thorpe, Etherton, Lewison LJJ, 30 March 2012)
The woman lived in local authority accommodation and after 2 years her partner began living with her at the property. After living there for 18 years the woman purchased the property under the right-to-buy scheme for £15,000. When their relationship ended the man remained living there for 4 years with the woman and their two children.
The man claimed a 50% beneficial interest in the property. During the hearing the judge found that the man made sporadic contributions to the household dependant upon when he was employed. However, the woman had sole responsibility for the rent/mortgage payments and had two jobs to cover all of the outgoings. All bills were in her sole name and the property was purchased in her sole name.
The judge found that the couple managed their financial affairs separately but that they had intended to purchase the property together and were only deterred because their chances of getting a mortgage were better if the application was made in the woman's sole name. Therefore, they intended for the man to have a beneficial interest in the property. The extent of that interest was never discussed between them.
The judge assessed the man's interest as 10% taking into account the principles in Oxley v Hiscock and the whole course of dealing between the man and woman. The man appealed, seeking a 50% beneficial interest in the property.
Appeal dismissed. Given that the property was not held in joint names there could be no scope for a legal presumption of joint beneficial ownership. There could be no argument that but for the advice of the mortgage advisor the property would have been held jointly and therefore the court should proceed on the hypothetical basis that that is what took place. Having inferred a common intention that the man should have a beneficial interest the judge carried out the task of assessing its extent in a careful fashion and could not be said to have been plainly wrong.