A question of intention

The eagerly awaited decision in the case of Stack v Dowden has been published today, with the House of Lords unanimously dismissing Mr Stack's appeal. He had claimed that he was entitled to a half share of the proceeds of sale of the property that he owned jointly with his former cohabitee, Ms Dowden. The County Court found in his favour, but Ms Dowden appealed and the Court of Appeal granted her 65% of the net proceeds. Mr Stack appealed to the House of Lords, which found that Ms Dowden had proved that the common intention was that she and Mr Stack should hold the property in unequal shares, and therefore upheld the order of the Court of Appeal. One factor indicating this common intention was that Ms Dowden had clearly contributed far more to the acquisition of the property than Mr Stack. Another was that, unusually for a couple that had lived together for so long (twenty-seven years) and had had four children together, they kept their affairs "rigidly separate", which Baroness Hale considered to be "strongly indicative that they did not intend their shares, even in the property which was put into both their names, to be equal".

Hopefully, cohabitees will, at some point in the near future, be given properly defined property rights (I have posted about this before - see, e.g., here), in which case the importance of this decision may only be temporary.


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