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Gore and Snell v Carpenter (1990) 60 P & CR 456, ChD

Joint Tenancy – Severance – Co-Ownership of Land

Facts

A husband and wife owned two properties. They were joint tenants of both.  As their marital relationship had broken down they decided to separate.  Whilst deciding to separate they agreed in principle that their joint tenancy would end and they would each have one of the houses as part of an overall separation agreement that they were conducting.  A final agreement had not been reached when the husband committed suicide.

Issues

Whether the couple’s agreement in principle to sever the joint tenancy had in fact so severed it or whether more was required to sever the joint tenancy.

Held

The joint tenancy had not been severed by the couple’s agreement in principle.  Whilst a joint tenancy can be severed by mutual agreement or a course of conduct as seen in Williams v Hensman (1861) 70 E.R. 862 the agreement in principle that the joint tenancy would be so severed was just a preliminary form of agreement, and could not be considered of itself as being a ‘course of conduct’.  The agreement was part of an overall separation agreement that had not been finalised, or signed by the couple, and as such it was naturally subject to potential revision.  Whilst both of the parties had been close to agreeing to sever their joint tenancy, they had not definitively done so.  Severance must be the result of agreement or a course of conduct and neither of these were present.  Because of this, the joint tenancy had not been severed and the wife remained entitled to the right of survivorship therefore as the joint tenancy was still technically in existence at the time of the husband’s death. 


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