Purpose, intention and marriage value in s.14 ToLATA trial

George Woodhead was recently instructed on behalf of the Defendant at the trial of his long-term ex-partner’s claim to a sale of three adjoining plots owned by the parties: a field, a yard and a plot with a house on it (together, ‘the Property’).  The Claimant sought an order for the sale of the Property as a whole so as to take advantage of a £50,000 marriage value.  The Defendant accepted that the house should be sold but sought to retain the yard and part of the adjoining field and was content to compensate the Claimant for her loss of the marriage value and her share of the retained plots.  Both parties made cross-claims for occupation rent.  An expert surveyor deemed the Property to have a value of £975,000 (£925,000 if sold separately) but the parties took the view the Property was worth in excess of this figure, such a view being supported by local estate agents.

The use to which the yard was put over its c. 30 years of ownership was a key feature in evidence; the Defendant asserting that the purpose and intention of the trust on which the parties held the yard endured, despite the breakdown of the relationship.  The parties had spent the best part of the last 30 years building up various enterprises between them and the yard was a part of that.

The trial was heard at the Central London County Court by HHJ Roberts.  The Judge found, applying the factors in section 15 of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 and considering inter alia the case of Bagum v Hafiz and Hai [2015] EWCA Civ 801, that the Property should be sold as one lot.  The Judge found that the purpose and intention of the trust on which the parties held all three lots had come to an end upon the conclusion of the parties’ relationship, despite the Defendant’s claim to use the yard in support of his business as a market trader and his expressed intention to carry on doing so.  Both claims to occupation rent/accounts were dismissed.  The Defendant successfully recovered his costs of trial, with no order as to costs before that, given the Claimant’s failure to properly engage in settlement negotiations.

The case demonstrated the wide range of available options to the court under an application pursuant to section 14 of the 1996 Act, in excess of those available to trustees under section 6 of the 1996 Act.

The case has received wide (and varying) press coverage this week at local and national level.

George Woodhead was instructed by Stella Parker of Cunningtons Solicitors.