Cohabitant misled by her partner wins share of family home

A woman who was misled by her cohabiting partner has won her legal fight to own 50% of the home they shared together.

The case involved Natalie O'Neill and Shaun Holland, who had lived together for 12 years.

Legal title to the property had been vested in the sole name of O’Neill’s father from its purchase in 1999 until 2008, when he transferred the property for a nil consideration into the sole name of Holland.

At that time, Holland was in a long-established relationship with O’Neill and the property had been their home for seven years along with their three children. The relationship broke down in 2012 and O’Neill moved out.

In 2016, she brought proceedings seeking a declaration that Holland held the beneficial interest in the property for them both in equal shares. Her case was that her father purchased the property without a mortgage, for £28,000, with the intention that he would allow her and Holland to live in it rent-free as their family home.

This was denied by Holland, who pleaded that he had provided the whole purchase price, but O’Neill’s father had agreed to take the transfer in his name and hold the property on trust for him.

At trial, evidence was given of correspondence with solicitors at the time as to Holland's intention to include O’Neill's name on the deeds. This had not occurred because the mortgage offer was in his sole name and he had not amended it.

O’Neill said that Holland had told her that she would be unable to obtain a mortgage.

The district judge found that the property was purchased by O’Neill’s father to be a family home for her.

She held that the reason the property was not put in joint names was because Holland had wrongly told O’Neill that she would not be able to get a mortgage.

She was satisfied that the circumstances were such as to give rise to a common intention constructive trust in favour of O’Neill, and that her beneficial interest in the property was 50%.

That decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

Please contact us if you would like advice about the division of assets after a relationship breaks down.

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