The High Court has dismissed a former cohabitee’s claim for a share in the sale proceeds of a farm.
Mr Griffey bought a farm for £660,000 in 2007, purchasing it in his sole name, with his money and as the only person named on the mortgage.
Mr Griffey and Ms Dobson lived together at the farm and various renovations were carried out. After the relationship ended, Mr Griffey sold the farm in March last year, for £967,500.
Ms Dobson claimed that she was entitled to 50% of the sale proceeds, arguing that, before the purchase the couple had agreed that Mr Griffey would buy the property as their home for life, that Ms Dobson would oversee the property’s renovation and, if sold, they would split the profit.
While the court acknowledged that Ms Dobson had put a great deal of heavy, laborious work into renovating the farm into a family home, she had done so believing that the couple would have a long term future and would have children together.
The court concluded that Ms Dobson had not intended the renovation of the farm to be a ‘money-making scheme’ and the parties had never struck a commercial deal.
It was Mr Griffey who funded the purchase and paid the mortgage – Ms Dobson had made no financial contribution at all. The purchase of the farm was Mr Griffey’s own decision, and despite Ms Dobson’s significant work she had not funded any of the renovations.
Ms Dobson’s efforts were understandable given her relationship with Mr Griffey, however her expectation of remaining at the farm or having an interest in the property had not sprung from an assurance from Mr Griffey.
Beneficial ownership disputes between cohabiting couples, such as this, can be complex and should be dealt with by experienced commercial litigators. This was the clear message sent by the High Court in this case.
If you are currently cohabiting or intend to cohabit, it would certainly be worthwhile considering documenting each party’s interest (if any) in the property that you live in. This can avoid the uncertainty and potential arguments surrounding each party’s share.
If you would like assistance in documenting your interests, if you need advice about whether you have a beneficial interest in an asset, or if you have found yourself in a situation where a person is trying to assert an interest in one of your assets, please get in touch on 01782 205000 or email email@example.com.