Burgess v Rawnsley [1975] Ch 429

Key point

  • Joint tenancy may be severed via a course of dealing evincing an intention to sever


  • A house was bought by D and C’s father with each providing half of the purchase price
  • D orally agreed to to sell her share in the house to C’s father but she subsequently refused to sell
  • C’s father died leaving C as his administratrix
  • C claimed that the joint tenancy had been severed in equity, D claim that house was hers by survivorship

Held (Court of Appeal)

  • C’s claim failed, she was only entitled to a half share of the house
  • The beneficial joint tenancy had been severed by D’s oral agreement to sell her share to C

Lord Denning MR

Severance by course of dealing

  • Severance by course of dealing need not amount to an agreement, express or implied, since it is a separate method from mutual agreement
  • It is sufficient if there a course of dealing in which one party makes clear to the other that he desires their shares to be held in common
  • Similarly, is sufficient if both parties enter on a course of dealing that evinces an intention to sever
  • Nielson-Jones was incorrectly decided, the couple had entered upon a course of dealing sufficient to sever their joint tenancy

Sir John Pennyquick

  • An uncommunicated declaration by one party to the other, or indeed a mere verbal notice by one party to the other clearly cannot operate as a severance