Update: joint ownership of property — a round-up of the major decisions in the wake of Jones v Kernott

By Ashley Wynne

The twin ‘seismic’ cases in the area of co-habitation disputes of Stack v Dowden [2007] UKHL 17 and Jones v Kernott [2011] UKSC 53 have come and gone and case law in which those decisions have been applied has begun to filter through. The following is a brief summary of the major reported cases that have followed in the wake of Jones v Kernott. It is difficult to extract a common thread from these cases as each has its own distinct factual make-up, but if there is any element of commonality of approach, it would seem to be the continued use of financial contributions as the basis upon which the quantification of beneficial entitlements under a constructive trust are calculated.

In Geary v Rankine [2012] EWCA Civ.555, the parties were in a relationship between 1990 and 2009 and lived together for the whole of that period. Their son was born in 1992. Mrs Geary remained married to her former husband until 2002. In 1996, Mr Rankine purchased a guesthouse in Hastings. The property was purchased for £61,000, all of which was sourced from Mr Rankine’s own savings. Initially, a manager was employed but after only a short time Mr Rankine moved from the parties’ home in London to Hastings in order to run the guesthouse himself. Mrs Geary soon joined him and played an active role in running the business. Following the demise of the parties’ relationship, Mrs Geary claimed: (i) an account on the basis that the business had been a partnership; and (ii) a declaration that the guest house was held by Mr Rankine by way of a constructive trust for the benefit of both parties.

The claims for a partnership account and a beneficial interest were rejected. There was no evidence that could form the basis of a finding that the parties intended Mrs Geary to obtain a beneficial interest in the guesthouse at the time of the purchase or that such an intention arose subsequently. There was also no evidence that Mrs Geary had changed her position in reliance upon any assertion that she was to have an interest in the property. Her claim in relation to a business partnership was dismissed on the facts…

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