At a trial heard last week in the Chancery Division of the High Court, Berry Smith’s Property Litigation Team successfully obtained damages of almost £200,000 and an order for costs on behalf of our client.
Our client had purchased a property with her daughter and son in law (“the Defendants”). It had been agreed that the parties would sell their respective properties to fund the purchase and that our client would be 50% owner of the property. The Defendants were unable to sell their property and so it was agreed that they would fund their share of the purchase price by obtaining a mortgage over the property, which the mortgage company insisted also had to be in our client’s name. The Defendants agreed to contribute their half share when they sold their property and to indemnify our client for any monies owed under the mortgage. The solicitors acting for the parties recorded this agreement in a Deed of Trust.
In fact, the daughter and son in law did not sell their property until much later and they also kept the sale proceeds from their property when it was sold. The parties fell out and our client was compelled to move out of the property due to her son in law’s conduct. The parties agreed to sell the property, but were unable to do so because it became apparent that the solicitors had failed to properly acquire a parcel of land which was a part of the property. That matter was ultimately resolved by Berry Smith’s professional negligence team, but in the meanwhile the Defendants continued to occupy the property.
The property was sold, but the mortgage was substantially greater than the Defendants’ half share of the property, thus reducing the monies available to our client. Further, during the course of the sale, the Defendants alleged for the first time that our client did not own any share of the property as she had allegedly promised to gift to them all of her interest in the property, which was to be recorded in her will. They also denied that they had signed the Deed of Trust as the solicitors were unable to find a signed copy. As the Defendants refused to agree to any payment to our client, the net sale proceeds of the property were held in a solicitors’ escrow account pending resolution of the dispute.
Our client was compelled to commence a claim for the Court to declare that i) she was 50% owner of the property; ii) the Deed accurately reflected the parties agreement; iii) she was entitled to 50% of the sale proceeds; iv) the Defendants indemnify her for the mortgage out of their share of the sale proceeds; v) she was entitled to payment of all of the monies in the solicitors’ escrow account; and vi) compensation for the fact that she had been compelled to leave the property, but that the Defendants had continued to occupy to her exclusion, known as “occupation rent”.
At the conclusion of a multi-day trial in the High Court, the Judge entirely upheld our client’s claim, as well as ordering that the Defendants immediately pay 80% of our client’s costs.
Please contact us if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of property dispute resolution law at SCare@berrysmith.com or 01656645525.