Nielson Jones v Fedden [1975] Ch 222

Key points

  • Persons can only be joint tenants if there are the unities of 1. Possession 2. Interest 3. Title
  • Uniter of interest cannot be severed through negotiations in the absence of an agreement


  • C and her husband (RT) were beneficial and legal joint tenants in their matrimonial home
  • They were contemplating divorce and both signed a memorandum which stated: “R.T. to use his entire discretion… to… sell the [matrimonial home]… and employ the proceeds realised to his new home… in order to provide a home… for… himself to live in….”
  • RT entered into an agreement for sale but died before the sale was completed
  • C sought a declaration that on death of her husband she was the sole owner of the home and proceeds of sale

Held (High Court)

  • Declaration granted, C was the sole owner of the property and proceeds
  • The joint tenancy in equity had not been severed

Walton J

Unities and severance

  • Persons can only be joint tenants if there are the unities of 1. Possession; 2. Interest; and 3. Title
  • Upon severance a person will take 1/n of the property beneficially, n = number of joint tenants
  • To effect a severance it must be essential to destroy one of the unities before LPA 1925, in the following ways:
    • Unity of possession: partition
    • Unity of interest: agreement or conduct amounting to agreement, acquisition of another estate capable of merging
    • Unity of title: actual alienation
  • Mere unilateral declaration of intention to sever cannot effect a severance

Current case

  • The memorandum by C and RT did not imply an agreement to sever as it dealt solely with the use of the proceeds of sale
  • The correspondence of the parties negotiating as to their share of the proceeds do not imply either an agreement or declaration of intention to sever
  • When parties are negotiating, they do not reach any final agreement to sever
Concurrent interests cases
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