James v Thomas: CA 23 Nov 2007

The claimant sought an interest in the property registered in the sole name of the respondent. The respondent had inherited a share in the property, and then bought out the interests of his siblings with support of a loan. The claimant had made no contribution to the purchase. She now appealed a finding that no constructive trust or estoppel arose from her long occupation and contributions and statements made, saying the court had no requirement to find a specific proportion to have been agreed.
Held: The appeal failed. While the judge may have erred in not recognising that an estoppel or constructive trust may arise in circumstances where the legal owner had assured the claimant that he or she has or will obtain a beneficial interest in the property, any error had not made a difference to the decision, and the facts found supported his judgment that no sufficiently clear assertion had been made.
Sir John Chadwick said: ‘It is said that, as a matter of law, the common intention may be formed at any time before, during or after the acquisition of the property; and that the common intention may be inferred from evidence of the parties’ conduct during the whole course of their dealings in relation to the property. For my part, I would accept each of those propositions of law
More pertinently, if the circumstances so demand, a constructive trust can arise some years after the property has been acquired by, and registered in the sole name of, one party who (at the time of the acquisition) was, beyond dispute, the sole beneficial owner: Gissing v Gissing [1971] AC 886, 901D-E, Bernard v Josephs [1982] Ch 391, 404E-F. But, as those cases show, in the absence of an express post-acquisition agreement, a court will be slow to infer from conduct alone that parties intended to vary existing beneficial interests established at the time of acquisition.’

Smith, Wilson LJJ, Sir John Chadwick
[2007] EWCA Civ 1212
England and Wales
CitedGissing v Gissing HL 7-Jul-1970
Evidence Needed to Share Benefical Inerests
The family home had been purchased during the marriage in the name of the husband only. The wife asserted that she had a beneficial interest in it.
Held: The principles apply to any case where a beneficial interest in land is claimed by a . .
CitedBernard v Josephs CA 30-Mar-1982
The court considered the division of proceeds of sale of a house bought by an unmarried couple.
Held: Where the trusts for which a property was purchased have been concluded, the house should be sold.
Griffiths LJ said: ‘the fact that . .
CitedLissimore v Downing ChD 31-Mar-2003
The claimant asserted an estoppel in land registered in the name of the defendant.
Held: Unspecific statements made by the defendant that ‘she would never want for anything’, or that ‘he would take care of her’, or that ‘he had looked after . .
CitedStack v Dowden HL 25-Apr-2007
The parties had cohabited for a long time, in a home bought by Ms Dowden. After the breakdown of the relationship, Mr Stack claimed an equal interest in the second family home, which they had bought in joint names. The House was asked whether, when . .
CitedOxley v Hiscock CA 6-May-2004
The parties were not married, but had brought together their resources to purchase a home in the name of one of them. Nothing had been said about the respective shares on which the property was to be held.
Held: The shares were to be assessed . .

Cited by:
CitedHopton v Miller ChD 31-Aug-2010
The parties had entered into partnership to open and run a restaurant, but without a formal agreement. They differed as to the values contributed by their respective efforts. After failures to disclose materials requested, the defendant we precluded . .
CitedWilliams v Lawrence and Another ChD 28-Jul-2011
The claimant, as trustee for the deceased’s insolvent estate, sought a declaration that a transfer of the deceased’s share in property made by the executors was void as being at an undervalue. The property was subject to a right of occupation in . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Land, Trusts

Updated: 05 January 2022; Ref: scu.261561