Burgess v Rawnsley

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Burgess v Rawnsley [1975] Ch 429, CA

Joint Tenancy – Severance – Conditions necessary for severance

Facts

Mr Honick and Mrs Rawnsley bought a property as beneficial joint tenants.  They had originally agreed to move into the property together.  Mr Honick made a proposal of marriage to Mrs Rawnsley which she declined, and then in fact never moved into the property.  She then agreed to sell her interest in the property to Mr Honick for £750.  This price was originally agreed, but before the sale was completed Mrs Rawnsley changed her mind because she wanted a better price.  Mr Honick then died.  His estate wished to establish severance of the joint tenancy, whereas Mrs Rawnsley sought to show that the joint tenancy had not been severed and that she was entitled to survivorship of the property.

Issues

Whether or not the joint tenancy had been severed.   Whether or not the parties had severed the joint tenancy by coming to an agreement on the sale of the property at a price of £750 even if this was not in fact completed.

Held

There had not been severance of the joint tenancy.  Whilst the parties had negotiated, they had not completed any deal and so the agreement to sever was not an irrevocable one.  The agreement was only oral, and so could not be enforced with regards a sale of land pursuant to the provisions of s40 Law of Property Act 1925 and so the agreement had not been completed.  Because it had not been completed the parties were free to change their mind.  Accordingly, no severance had occurred.

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