Quantifying the beneficial interest under a constructive trust focuses on intention

When quantifying a beneficial interest under a common intention constructive trust the Court seeks the intention of the parties. When this has not been expressed, the court can take a holistic approach and look at the whole course of conduct between the parties to see what light it sheds on the matter.

In Holman v Howes ([2007] EWCA Civ 877 CA (Eng)) a couple bought property. They had been married and were divorced at the time of the acquisition. They were attempting a reconciliation. Title to the property was in the man’s name (the defendant). They had each contributed and the Court accepted his evidence to the effect that the intention had been that the property was jointly owned. The dispute was as to how the parties’ respective shares should be quantified. The English Court of Appeal applied the approach of Baroness Hale in paragraphs 69 and 70 of Stack v Dowden. It had to determine what the parties’ intentions had been. It could look at the whole course of dealings between them.  The Court decided that their intention had been that they would share equally in the beneficial ownership of the property.

The defendant had assured the claimant that she would be secure in her enjoyment of the property for as long as she wanted. The Court of Appeal held that this gave rise to an estoppel given that she had detrimentally relied on it. There would be no order for sale without her consent.

Michael Lower

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