Austin v Keele (1987)

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Last modified: 12/10/18 Author: In-house law team

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Austin v Keele (1987) NSWLR 283

Property law – Beneficial interest


The parties, in this case, had a long business arrangement. The case was concerned with the dissolution of a business partnership between Austin and Keele, which specifically focussed on the division of the properties owned by the parties and their companies, of which each party owned one. The trial judge reviewed the relationship and rejected Austin’s oral evidence by which his claim was based. This evidence claimed that the parties had discussed the rights that Austin would possess over the properties. This did not resonate with the separate agreements that both parties had written and signed. Austin appealed the decision of the court at first instance to reject his initial evidence.


The court had two claims put forward for it to consider. The first was whether the terms of the agreement constructed a trust between the parties, where each had an equal share in the properties. The second was whether the documentation and the arguments put forward by the parties demonstrated that there was a common intention that each of them derives a benefit from them. The court had to look towards the wording the in the agreements between the parties and their intention to understand the rights each of them possessed in the relevant properties.


The court held that there was no evidence that Austin had acted to his detriment on the faith of having a beneficial interest in the properties and on this basis, the court rejected Austin’s appeal for his evidence to be used in the trial.

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