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Your home, and the land it is on, will be one of the most valuable assets you will ever own. So, it’s important you can prove you own that property if you intend to sell or make use of it – especially if it is co-owned and you intend to force a sale.
Most people have some idea that deeds dictate property ownership. In fact, deeds are just a special form of contract. In land law a deed is required to transfer ownership of a house or plot of land from the current owner to the purchaser. Once the purchase is complete, the deed is usually used as proof of ownership, like a logbook for a car.
The HM Land Registry is a government body for collecting all deeds to land in order to keep a register of who owns what land in England and Wales. However, not all land has been registered yet. In such cases you will have to examine the deeds to check who owns land, rather than asking HM Land Registry to help you.
Co-Ownership, Joint Tenancy, and Tenants in Common
Co-ownership is most often in the form of a joint tenancy or as tenants in common. We explain the differences in more detail on our blog, but here’s a summary:
- Joint tenants are not regarded as having shares in the land. Rather, they collectively own the whole estate. They are not separate owners, but an inseparable group owner.
- Tenants in common is where everyone owns a separate share of the property
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Gaining Interest in Land or a House without a Deed
If you aren’t on the deeds, all is not lost. The Law will sometimes recognise a person’s right to a share in land which without a deed. This can arise in a few ways, but these are the most common:
Through Contribution to the Purchase Price or Investment
If you contribute to the cost of someone else’s house, then you may acquire rights of ownership, even if your name doesn’t end up on the deeds. For example, if you help someone by a house by paying the deposit for them.
You will have to show that it wasn’t intended to be a loan or an outright gift. But, if you can prove this and the amount you contributed, then the court may award you a share of the property.
After A Divorce, or After A Breakup By Unmarried Partners
The court has extensive powers to bring about a fair and equitable divorce. This means that they can award ownership of the property to be shared, or wholly owned by either parties. The court has full discretion as to what they believe is fair, and it is not necessary for your name to be on the deed to be awarded a share.
Unmarried couples can benefit too, but your rights are not as extensive if you are not married. So, you might gain rights of ownership if:
- You contributed to the purchase price of the property but did not get entered onto the deeds.
- You and your partner made an agreement to the effect that you would have a share, which you relied on to your detriment.
- Or, you partner may have misled you about your status, or were promised that you would acquire an interest in the future. If you have acted to your detriment in reliance on this then you may be able to establish a right to a share of ownership of the property.
A Right Arising After Someone Has Died
You may inherit a right of ownership under a Will if someone very close to you dies, or if there is no Will then under the Administration of Estates Act.
Sometimes our clients come to us complaining that their rights have never been formalised, and that their name has not been put on the deeds or the property is not being sold. Or, sometimes that someone has occupied the property to their own benefit and won’t move out. We can take steps to move things forward. And, where necessary, we can get court orders forcing a Will to be administered or that the property is sold or transferred into your name.
However, the problem can become more difficult if there is a dispute about what a Will means, or if you believe that someone has acted fraudulently or taken control of property they are not entitled to. In that case we can bring a claim for fraud or breach of trust.
Finally, if you are completely overlooked in a Will and you were a spouse or child of the deceased then you can maybe bring a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975 in certain circumstances. This can also apply if you were treated as a child of the family or were being financially supported by the deceased before they died.
Making A TOLATA Claim (Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act)
If there is a dispute about who owns a property, you can make a TOLATA claim to request the Court resolve the disputed issues.
In a TOLATA claim, the court has powers to find what the true position is and then order certain actions because of that. For example, the court may find that you have certain rights to a property that another owner is living in. Then, the court may order that the other owner pays you occupation rent. Although, the court must consider a range of factors before making such an order.
We can help you make a claim under TOLATA if you are in a situation similar to what we have described. If you’re struggling to sell a property because someone else believes they have ownership or have a right to a portion of the property’s value, call 01925 351 350 to find out what we can do for you.
How Your Case Would Be Funded
A lot of people hear the word solicitor and instantly think “this will cost a fortune!” That’s rarely the case, and for home or property ownership disputes there are funding options available to reduce the cost and financial risk for you.
Depending on the specifics of your case, we may be able to work on:
- A no win no fee arrangement
- A now in low fee arrangement
- With a DBA (damages-based agreement)
- Funding may be available from an independent funder
For more details about any of these options, and which you may be eligible for, please get in touch.
Get in Touch with Chris Rudd Solicitors
So, to find out more about making a claim about a home ownership dispute, please call us on 01925 351 350. We’d be happy to discuss your case and assess how we can help you.
As well as having a team of experienced, expert solicitors on your side, we can offer you:
- Clear, easy-to-understand advice throughout the whole process
- Low-risk funding arrangements as discussed above
Call us to get started with your claim or request a call back.