Springette v Defoe: CA 1 Mar 1992

Property was purchased in joint names, but with no express declaration of the beneficial interests. The couple had lived together for a short time as joint tenants of the local authority. They were able to purchase at a substantial discount from the estimated market value because Miss S had been a tenant of the local authority elsewhere for 11 years or more. The property was purchased with the assistance of a building society mortgage – for the repayment of which they were both liable as covenantors. Treating the mortgage monies as provided in equal shares – and giving Miss Springette credit for the whole of the tenant’s discount – her contribution to the purchase was 75% or thereabouts. They agreed that they were each intended to have some beneficial interest in the property; and it was found as a fact by the trial judge that they never had any discussion at all, at or before the time of the purchase, about what their respective interests were to be.
Held: The property was owned in equal shares; not on the basis of his finding that, although uncommunicated to each other, that was, in fact, the intention of each at the time, but because: ‘It is my judgment that there is sufficient evidence on the facts of inference of common intention or arrangement between the parties that the property should be owned in equal shares’.
Lord Justice Dillon: ‘In Walker v Hall I expressed the view at p 134C that it was not open to this court, in the absence of specific evidence of the parties’ intentions, to hold that the property there in question belonged beneficially to the parties in equal shares, notwithstanding their unequal contributions to the purchase price, simply because it was bought to be their family home and they intended – or possibly one should say ‘hoped’ – that their relationship should last for life. The effect is that, in the absence of an express declaration of the beneficial interests, the court will hold that the joint purchasers hold the property on a resulting trust for themselves in the proportions in which they contributed directly or indirectly to the purchase price, unless there is sufficient specific evidence of their common intention that they should be entitled in other proportions – eg in equal shares notwithstanding unequal contributions – to rebut the presumption of resulting trust.’ and ‘The common intention must be founded on evidence such as would support a finding that there is an implied or constructive trust for the parties in proportions to the purchase price. The court does not as yet sit, as under a palm tree, to exercise a general discretion to do what the man in the street, on a general overview of the case, might regard as fair.’ and ‘But the common intention of the parties must, in my judgment, mean a shared intention communicated between them. It cannot mean an intention which each happened to have in his or her own mind but had never communicated to the other.’ and ‘Since, therefore, it is clear in the present case that there never was any discussion between the parties about what their respective beneficial interests were to be, they cannot, in my judgment, have had in any relevant sense any common intention as to the beneficial ownership of the property. . . . The presumption of resulting trust is not displaced.’
Lord Justice Steyn: ‘Given that no actual common intention to share the property in equal beneficial shares was established, one is driven back to the equitable principle that the shares are to be presumed to be in proportion to the contributions.’
Lord Justice Dillon, Lord Justice Steyn, Sir Christopher Slade
[1992] 2 FLR 388
England and Wales

  • Cited – Gissing 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 . .
    [1970] 3 WLR 255, [1971] AC 886, [1970] 2 All ER 780, [1970] UKHL 3
  • Cited – Grant v Edwards and Edwards CA 24-Mar-1986
    A couple were not married but lived together in Vincent Farmhouse in which the plaintiff claimed a beneficial interest on separation. The female partner was told by the male partner that the only reason for not acquiring the property in joint names . .
    [1986] 1 Ch 638, [1986] 2 All ER 426, [1986] 3 WLR 114, [1986] EWCA Civ 4, [1986] Fam Law 300, [1987] 1 FLR 87

Cited by:

  • Cited – Oxley 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 . .
    [2004] EWCA Civ 546, Times 14-Jul-04, [2004] 2 FLR 669, [2005] Fam 211
  • Cited – Huntingford v Hobbs CA 1-Mar-1992
    The parties lived together in a property transferred to the woman after her divorce. That house was sold and the defendant contributed the capital. There was a joint mortgage, but the plaintiff alone had an income from which to make payments. The . .
    [1993] 1 FLR 736
  • Explained – Evans v Hayward CA 1-Jun-1992
    The property had been bought in joint names at a discounted price under a ‘right to buy’ conferred by the Housing Act 1985; but where the discount was substantially attributable to the plaintiff’s former occupation as local authority tenant. The . .
    [1995] 2 FLR 511
  • Cited – Saville v Goodall CA 1993
    The court considered the requirements to establish that property purchased in one name but for an unmarried couple were to be held on trust: ‘[Counsel] referred us to a recent decision of this court in Springette v Defoe [1992] 2 FLR 388, which . .
    [1993] 1 FLR 755
  • Cited – Midland Bank v Cooke and Another CA 13-Jul-1995
    Equal equitable interest inferrable without proof
    The bank sought to enforce a charge given by the husband to secure a business loan. The property was purchased from the husband’s and his family’s resources and the loan, and was in his name. There had been no discussion or agreement between husband . .
    Independent 26-Jul-95, Times 13-Jul-95, Gazette 31-Aug-95, [1995] 4 All ER 562, [1995] 2 FLR 915, [1995] EWCA Civ 12, [1996] 1 FCR 442
  • Cited – Stack v Dowden CA 13-Jul-2005
    The parties purchased a property together. The transfer contained a survivorship restriction but no declaration of the beneficial interests. The judge had held the property to be held as tenants in commn on equal shares.
    Held: In a case where . .
    [2006] 1 FLR 254, [2005] EWCA Civ 857
  • Cited – Stack 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 . .
    [2007] 2 WLR 831, [2007] UKHL 17, [2007] 2 All ER 929, [2007] 2 WLR 831, [2007] AC 432, Times 26-Apr-07, [2007] 1 FLR 1858, [2007] BPIR 913, [2007] Fam Law 593, [2007] 2 FCR 280, [2007] 18 EG 153, (2006-07) 9 ITELR 815, [2007] WTLR 1053
  • Cited – Jones v Kernott SC 9-Nov-2011
    Unmarried Couple – Equal division displaced
    The parties were unmarried but had lived together. They now disputed the shares in which they had held the family home. It had been bought in joint names, but after Mr Kernott (K) left in 1993, Ms Jones (J) had made all payments on the house. She . .
    [2011] UKSC 53, UKSC 2010/0130, [2011] 46 EG 104, [2011] 3 FCR 495, [2011] Fam Law 1338, [2012] WTLR 125, [2011] NPC 116, [2011] BPIR 1653, [2011] 3 WLR 1121, 14 ITELR 491
  • Cited – Richards v Wood CA 27-Feb-2014
    The defendants had purchased their council house with financial asistance from their son, the claimant. He now asserted that a trust existed in the property in his favour.
    Held: ‘unless there is a secure tenancy the statutory right to buy . .
    [2014] EWCA Civ 327

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 09 December 2020; Ref: scu.199514