Common intention constructive trust: imputed intention in a sole name case

In Aspden v Elvy ([2012] EWHC 1387) A and E had cohabited and had two children. Long after the relationship broke down A transferred the ownership of a barn with planning permission for conversion to a dwelling-house to E. He may have hoped that they would resume their relationship. A also provided between GBP65,000 to GBP70,000 towards the cost of the conversion works. They had a further dispute and there was a question as to whether A had an interest in the barn under either a common intention constructive trust or proprietary estoppel. The judge found that A had intended an outright gift of the title but had not intended to make a gift of the money needed for the conversion works. He intended to acquire an interest in the barn and E knew this. As a result, he was entitled to a 25% interest in the barn (it had a market value of GBP400,000 so this would give him GBP100,00 which the judge thought was a reasonable return on his investment). The judge said that the elements of a proprietary estoppel were also present and would have led to the same outcome.

On the question of the valuation, HH Judge Behrens said that there had been no express discussion as to how the beneficial ownership was to be shared and the only available evidence was the market value of the property. In these circumstances,

‘I have to impute an intention by reference to what is fair having regard to the whole course of dealing between the parties.’ ([123]).

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