Published: Fri, 12 Oct 2018
Jones v Kernott  EWCA Civ 578
Beneficial interests of a co-habiting couple in a family home.
An unmarried, co-habiting couple, Mr. Kernott and Ms. Jones, purchased a home with a mortgage in joint names. The couple co-habited the home and contributed to its expenses for eight years, after which Mr. Kernott left the property and made no further contributions. Ms. Jones remained in the property with their children and paid all further expenses towards the acquisition of the property.
The question arose as to the beneficial interests that each party had in the property, in light of its registration under joint names as well as their ensuing conduct in relation to it.
The Supreme Court upheld that, if a property is purchased in joint names for a couple, there is a presumption that their beneficial interests in the property coincide with their legal estate. The Court placed emphasis that the presiding presumption is reflective of a couple’s joint venture to purchase a property, underpinned by an emotional and economic relationship of trust that does not hold each party separately account financially. However, albeit with a high threshold, this presumption can be rebutted by evidence concerning subsequent conduct in relation to the property, such as unequal contributions to the acquisition of the property under a mortgage. In this case, the Court deduced that “objectively from [the parties’] conduct” following from the initial joint registration, there can be no presumption of joint beneficial ownership in a family home. (paras 52-53). Accordingly, the Court held that each of Mr. Kernott and Ms. Jones hold differing beneficial shares in the property that are reflective of their respective contributions to the house. Overturning the Court of Appeal’s previous decision, this was determined to be 10% for Mr. Kernott and 90% for Ms. Jones.
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