Property Co-Ownership at Law and in Equity

Property ownership at law and in equity

Section 34(6) of the Law of Property Act 1925 treats co-owners as one legal entity: they are joint tenants in law (McKenzie & Phillips, 2012: 282). The Trustee Act 1925 limits the number of joint tenants of a legal estate to four persons. In this case, the first four owners that are: Satish, Bill, John, Richard are regarded as joint tenants under the statutory law: they are one legal entity and have a legal right and responsibility as a single entity.

The fact that there are five owners of the property means that the first four games in the register hold the property for themselves, and are the legal co-owners in trust. Therefore, Mike is not a legal co-owner. However, since under the equitable law there is no limit to tenancy, Satish, Bill, John, Richard and Mike have equitable rights and responsibilities. Equity categorizes co-ownership in terms of unities of interest (Bray, 2010: 289).

They hold the estate equitably as tenants in common based on the existing presumption in favour of a tenancy common in equity. The presumption here is that there is no proof of agreement among the Satish, Bill, John, Richard and Mike that they will have joint tenancy (Megarry, Wade & Harpum, 2012: 511).

Though the Law of Property Act 1925 and the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 do not cover the resulting trust, the case of Bull v. Bull [1955] provided for it. The decision in the case of Stack v Dowden [2007] applies to all the cases of equitable and legal co-ownership. If the estate is a joint tenancy in accordance with the Law of Property Act 1925, the estate will also be a joint tenancy in equity (Bray, 2010: 289).

A joint tenancy satisfies the unities of time, possession, interest, and title. According to the tenancy of Satish, Bill, John and Richard, the parties share unity in interests: they decide to purchase lanes for use as their local office. Moreover, there is the unity of title because their concern in the land is underneath a similar document. They share a unity of time since all want to convey the tenancy at the same particular time. The co-owners are entitled to posses the whole land legally under the unity of possession. However, to completely count as joint tenants, there should be no presumption in favour of a tenancy in common. There is a presumption that there is no proof of a written agreement to own the land jointly; therefore, disqualifying this as a joint tenancy.

According to the manner in which the property is owned, the rights of survivorship are also determined. Legally, Satish, Bill, John, Richard have a joint tenancy. This means they have a will dictating the successors in case of death is null. When one dies, the rest automatically assume full responsibility and ownership of his or her share. Therefore, any successors in such a situation become rebutted. While in terms of tenancy of commons, in case of death, the share goes to the person who is indicated in the will like the next of kin.

Effect of John’s death on the ownership

Section 36(2) of the Law of Property Act (as amended by the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996) provides that a person serving the joint tenancy can give notice in writing or do some other thing or things that have the potential of effectively severing the tenancy in equity. This means that if John had died under a joint tenancy, legally, the son would not be able to inherit his share since the rest of the joint members automatically assume ownership of his share.

Under co-tenancy in equity, each tenant holds an undivided percentage of interest in the property. When a co-owner passes on, it means his/her interest form the property should be under the next of kin according to his/her will. Thus, since the partners equitably co-own the property as tenants in common, it means that the successor takes up his share. In such a case, the son is able to inherit whatever his father leaves behind.

Richard’s rights and obligations

Where two or more people have a unity of possession in the property, they assume equitable rights and legal responsibilities. With regard to co-ownership, the law imposes a trust (McKenzie & Phillips, 2012: 287). This means that in the case that Satish, Bill, John, and Richard have a joint tenancy, it would be impossible. Where one co-owner wants to sell property against the wishes of the other parties, he/she needs to get a court order under Section 14 of the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.

Richard can sell the equitable share and release capital if he can find someone to buy it. However, he cannot sell his legal share because he does not have an identifiable share in the legal estate (Perrins, 2000: 157). He is a joint tenant and cannot act on his own because he is a part of one legal entity with the other tenants. The sale of the title will give vacant possession to the purchaser.

However, under the equitable law, Richard co-owns his piece of property as a tenant in common. Therefore, he has the right to terminate the tenancy by selling his piece and leaving the partnership. On the basis of having no proof of an agreement written down, Richard has the right to sell his share of the property.

References

Bray, J 2010, Unlocking Land Law. 3rd ed., Routledge, New York.

Bull v. Bull [1955] 1QB 234 CA (Eng).

Law of Property Act 1925, Ch20. London: HMSO.

McKenzie, J. & Phillips, M 2012, Textbook on Land Law, Oxford University, Press Oxford.

Megarry, R, Wade, W, and Harpum, C. (2012). The Law of Real Property. Sweet & Maxwell, London.

Perrins, B. (2000). Understanding Land Law. LEXISNEXIS, San Francisco.

Stack v Dowden [2007] UKHL 17.

Trustee Act 1925 c. 19 (Regnal. 15_and_16_Geo_5), London: HMSO.

Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, Ch 47, London: HMSO.