Aspden v Elvy [2012] EWHC 1387

Key point
  • This case shifts away from the approach focused on financial contribution in Lloyds v Rosset post Jones v Kernott, taking a more holistic approach to assessing contributions
Facts
  • C transferred his barn to D, his partner, to put it out of reach of creditors and to minimise exposure to inheritance tax
  • Steps were then taken to convert the Barn into a dwelling house: C used his digger, undertook manual labour and made financial contribution
  • C contended that the payments were made with the common intention that the parties would live together
  • D argued that there was no common intention and that the contributions were gifts
Held (High Court)
  • C had beneficial interest in the house
Behrens J
  • Cited Stack and Jones – Although the cases both dealt with joint names cases, passages in the judgements referred to sole name scenarios
  • There is a presumption that beneficial title follows legal title
  • There was no common intention at the point of transfer that the man was to have an interest and the barn was intended as a gift
  • However, there was common intention later when the barn was refurbished
    • If the refurbishment were gifts, C would have in effect left himself with nowhere to live
  • Via imputation he found that C was entitled to 25%
Commentary
  • In holding that Mr Aspden had established an interest in the barn, the judge appears to have moved on from the Rosset criteria and taken an holistic approach, since the financial contributions made by Mr Aspden related not to its acquisition but its improvement
  • This is true even if Mr Aspden could not realistically have been expected to make direct financial contributions to the ‘acquisition’ of the barn at the relevant time, since he had originally acquired it by himself and then chosen to transfer it to Ms Elvy
  • Lord Bridge did not include indirect improvement based financial contribution in his methods of inference and he also said that ‘a common intention by spouses that a house is to be renovated as a “joint venture” ’ is not something that ‘throws any light on their intentions with respect to the beneficial ownership of the property’.
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