Who gets the house?

In a recent case, a mother sued her son over a house and a flat.

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We report regularly on problems with relations and the family home. Valuable properties, elderly parents and arguing siblings can be a toxic mix.

In a recent case, a mother sued her son over a house that was worth £600,000 and a flat worth £200,000.  The mother made various payments to one of her sons in relation to the properties over the years. The legal title to both properties was held in the sole name of the son to whom the payments had been made.

The owner of the properties let his mother and brother live in one of them. The owner did not think that his brother was keeping the property clean and tidy and in an attempt to provoke his brother to move, he served a notice to quit on his mother and it is this act which led to the court proceedings.

The mother claimed that, due to her contributions, she was entitled to claim a beneficial interest in the properties. This means that whilst she was not the legal owner, her son would have to pay her all or some of the sale proceeds if and when the properties were sold.

The mother's situation was complicated by the fact that her grasp of the English language was poor and there was little evidence of how and why the various payments had been made over the years.

The court held that the mother was entitled to a 30% share in the house but had no interest in the flat.

The solicitor acting for the mother said: 'This is a sad case because no matter the outcome, it irreparably fractured the family unit.'

The case is a sad reminder of the importance of obtaining legal advice before making payments to family members. The purpose of any payments should be properly recorded and if a share of a property is the expected result of a payment, this should be documented.

A solicitor can also ensure that a client who might have difficulties understanding what they are doing or being told is properly advised and that this advice is in writing.

To discuss this or any other property related issue, contact us.

Members: Simon Shaw, Elizabeth Rimell and Janice Leyland.
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