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Kinch v Bullard [1998] 4 All ER 650

Joint Tenancy – Severance – Service of Notice of Intent to Sever

Facts

A married couple, Mr and Mrs Johnson were the beneficial joint tenants of their matrimonial home.  After suffering a breakdown in their personal relationship divorce proceedings were begun.  Mrs Johnson sent her husband a letter by first class post stating her intention to sever her interest and so sever the joint tenancy.  However, Mr Johnson was by this time terminally ill, and realising that she was likely to outlive her husband she then destroyed the letter.  Mr Johnson died a few weeks later, and Mrs Johnson then died a few months after that.  The executors required the court to rule on whether or not the notice had effectively severed their joint tenancy.

Issues

Had the joint tenancy been effectively severed by the delivery of a letter in which one of the joint tenants indicated a desire to sever their interest?  Whether or not this interest remained un-severed because the joint tenant later destroyed the letter before the other joint tenant read it, but after it had been delivered.

Held

The tenancy had been effectively severed by the delivery of the letter and notice that the tenant intended to sever their interest as provided for by s36(2) Law of Property Act 1925.  Even though the wife at the time of delivery no longer wished to sever the joint tenancy, this could not prevent the notice from being effective.  Under s196 Law of Property Act 1925 a notice was properly served it is left at the last known place of abode or business in the United Kingdom of the person served.  Therefore, the notice of severance was effective from when the letter fell through the letterbox and it was irrelevant whether or not the wife destroyed the letter after it had been properly served.


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