Archive for the ‘express trust’ Category

Resulting or express trust?

October 28, 2015

In Ng Tak Kau v Cheung Man Kwai ([2015] HKEC 1942, CFI) title to the family home was conveyed into the names of a father and son as joint tenants. When the son ran into financial difficulties, the son assigned his interest in the property to the father. The son’s major creditor argued that this assignment was voidable under section 60 of the Conveyancing and Property Ordinance (on the basis that it as entered into with the intent to defraud creditors).

The first question that the court had to consider was whether the father was the sole beneficial owner. The evidence showed clearly that he had provided the entire purchase price and that, although the presumption of advancement arose, there was no intention to make a gift to the son. There was clear evidence of an agreement (reached with the concurrence of other family members) that the son’s name was on the title purely with a view to ‘easy administration of family assets’ in the event of the father’s death ([19]). Thus, the son had no share and the transaction was merely the exercise of the father’s rights as sole beneficial owner. The creditor’s claim failed. There was no question of estoppel since the creditor did not rely on any belief as to the son’s ownership when making the loan to the son.

It is perhaps surprising that the conclusion was that there was an express trust in favour of the father ([40]) given the lack of writing to evidence the trust (as required by section 5(1) of the Conveyancing and Property Ordinance). The analysis had been couched in resulting trust terms and could easily have been thought of as a common intention constructive trust.

Michael Lower

Trusts, ‘alienation’ and the Home Ownership Scheme

December 19, 2012

In Cheuk Shu Yin v Yip So Wan ([2012] HKEC 1554, CFA) the Court of Final Appeal had to consider whether the creation of a trust in respect of a flat purchased under the Home Ownership Scheme (‘HOS’) was an ‘alienation’ for the purposes of sections 17B and 27A of the Housing Ordinance. If so, the trust would be void and a criminal offence would have been committed. In the cases being considered, family members had joined together to contribute to the purchase price and mortgage instalments and it was understood that they would have a beneficial interest in the property as a result (by virtue of a resulting or constructive trust). The Court of Final Appeal decided unanimously that there was no alienation.

Chan PJ looked to the context of the HOS scheme and the language used to determine the relevant intention. The HOS scheme actually envisaged the possibility of a pooling of resources)([5]). It was concerned only to prevent speculative acquisition under the scheme with a view to resale (given the substantial discount enjoyed by first purchasers). The Ordinance did not seek to frustrate or outlaw the pooling of financial resources by family members ([6]). Turning to the language used, ‘alienation’ requires a positive act by the owner while resulting or constructive trusts arising by operation of law ([8]).

Lord Hoffmann’s analysis concentrated rather on the context or purpose of the prohibition. Although he was inclined to agree with Chan PJ on the language point he preferred not to rest his decision on it ([24]). The Court of Appeal had also looked to the purpose behind the scheme. It thought that unless the prohibition was given a wide ambit there would be scope to use the creation of an express trust or the possibility of an implied trust arising by operation of law as a way of sidestepping the policy of the act ([29]). Lord Hoffmann thought that these fears had been exaggerated and saw little scope for use of the trust as a way of creating commercially attractive investments in HOS flats ([30] – [32]). By contrast, allowing family members to pool their resources would promote the purpose of the scheme (to expand the pool of home-owners to include people of limited financial resources) ([33]):

‘[T]he fact that it would often be unjust to deny a beneficial interest to someone who paid the purchase price in the expectation that he would get one is a reason for not construing the statute so widely as to have this effect. Not only would he be denied a remedy, he would have committed a criminal offence for doing something which to most people in his position would seem normal and even generous.’ ([35])

This outcome did not depend on the fact that the trust in these cases arose by operation of law; on the contrary, the same approach applied to an express trust:

‘The reason why the creation of a beneficial interest does not come within s 17B is not because the trust arises by operation of law rather than by an intentional act but because the creation of an equitable interest is not in my opinion an alienation of the land assigned to the purchaser. It is the creation of a new interest in that land. It would in my opinion be very strange if the parties could create a constructive trust by their common intention but were required at all costs to avoid reducing this to an express declaration in writing.’ ([36])

Michael Lower