Archive for the ‘occupation rent’ Category

When is an occupation rent payable?

August 14, 2021

In Cheung Lai Mui v Cheung Wai Shing ([2021] HKEC 2263) the Court of Final Appeal was asked to consider whether the obligation to pay an occupation rent only arose when there was an ouster or where partition proceedings or some analagous process (such as sale and division of the proceeds) had been initiated.

The alternative view, rejected by the Court of Final Appeal, was that there is a new ‘modern’ approach in which an occupation rent is payable whenever this is equitable.

P, D1 and D2 were co-owners of a house. P had a two-thirds share in the tenancy in common of the house and D1/D2 were co-owners of the remaining one-third share.

P occupied one floor of the house herself. The other two floors were let out and P received the rent. There was no ouster of D1 or D2. Were they entitled to an occupation rent and an account of the rental income received and retained by P?

The Court of Final Appeal rejected this claim:

‘We conclude that the authorities considered above do not establish any new, free-standing “modern approach” such as that urged by the respondents and favoured by the Court of Appeal. Claims by one co-owner against a co-owner in occupation for payment of occupation rent or for an account of rent can only arise in accordance with the principles laid down in the established authorities. Unity of possession precludes such claims otherwise than in cases of ouster (including “constructive exclusion” as in domestic violence cases); or where an operative agreement renders the co-owner in occupation an agent or bailiff so as to come under a duty to account to the other. Where partition or analogous proceedings have been instituted, apart from cases of ouster, equity may recognise a defensive equity in favour of one of the co-owners regarding expenditure appropriately incurred and may, in the process of equitable accounting, require the other, viewed as a seeker of equity required to do equity, to be debited with an occupation rent to set off the expenditure incurred, thus reciprocally balancing the parties’ interests in the distribution of the realised proceeds of the co-owned property.’ (at [104])

There is no right to an occupation rent or to an account of rental income unless there is ouster (including constructive ouster) or agreement. Where a partition or order for sale has been sought or a sale has taken place, the court can order payment of an occupation rent or account for income as part of an equitable accounting exercise.

Michael Lower

Occupation rent: joint tenant’s trustee in bankruptcy

October 12, 2019

What principles govern an application for occupation rent by a joint tenant’s trustee in bankruptcy?

The facts

In Davis v Jackson ([2017] EWHC 698 (Ch)) Mr and Mrs Jackson were legal and equitable joint tenants of their family home. The couple were estranged when the property was acquired and it was never envisaged that Mr Jackson would live in it. Mrs Jackson made all the mortgage payments.

Mr Jackson was made bankrupt and the trustee in bankruptcy obtained an order for the sale of the property and an equal division of the proceeds of sale between him and Mrs Jackson.

The court ordered that there should be equitable accounting and that Mrs Jackson should be entitled to a contribution from the trustee of one half of the mortgage payments made by her up to the time of the sale of the property.

The trustee in bankruptcy contended that it should be entitled to charge Mrs Jackson an occupation rent in respect of her occupation during the period after the bankruptcy.

The relevant law

The default position is that an occupation rent is not payable; there must be some conduct or feature of the case that would justify equity in requiring the occupier to pay rent ([61]).

When deciding on whether such circumstances exist, ‘the court can have regard to the circumstances in existence before the tenant in common seeking payment of an occupation rent acquired his interest’ ([67] per Snowden J).

The court ‘has a broad equitable jurisdiction to do justice between co-owners on the facts of each case’ ([71]).

It was never envisaged that Mr Jackson would occupy the property:

‘That being so, for my part I simply cannot see how it could be in accordance with equity or justice for the Trustee, who has simply had Mr. Jackson’s interest in the Property vested in him, automatically to become entitled to claim an occupation rent from Mrs. Jackson. The Trustee has in no sense been excluded from the Property; and it is not merely that it is unreasonable for the Trustee to start occupying the Property with Mrs. Jackson and her children; the true position is that Mr. Jackson never had such a right at all. I therefore do not see how the Trustee can in effect claim to stand in a better position and charge Mrs. Jackson rent in place of seeking to occupy the property’ (75]).

Mrs Jackson could not be charged an occupation rent.

Michael Lower

Equitable accounting: is an ouster necessary before an occupation rent becomes payable?

October 9, 2019

In Murphy v Gooch ([2007] EWCA Civ 603), a co-habiting couple bought a 25% stake in a shared ownership property. The relationship between the couple broke down and Ms Murphy left the property. Ms Murphy applied for a declaration that they were tenants in common in equal shares, an order for sale and for an account to be taken as part of which Mr Gooch should be ordered to pay an occupation rent in respect of the period in which he was in sole occupation.

The English Court of Appeal (Lightman J giving the judgment) held that Mr Gooch could be ordered to pay an occupation rent if this was just and equitable even if there was no ouster ([18]).

Lightman J was prepared to hold, in any event, that there was a ‘constructive ouster’ since Ms Murphy left the property on the breakdown of the relationship ([18]).

Ms Murphy was entitled to set this occupation rent off against the sums paid by Mr Gooch in respect of mortgage interest and the rent payable in respect of the 75% share of the property still owned by the Housing Association from which the couple bought their share ([21]).

This decision was reached under the terms of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. Lightman J states, however, that the same decision would have been reached through an application of equitable accounting principles.

Michael Lower