Kingsnorth Finance Co Ltd v Tizard [1986] 1 WLR 783, ChD

A wife’s beneficial interest in the matrimonial home can serve to bind a purchaser for value who fails to adequately inspect a property.

Facts

A married couple jointly contributed to the purchase price for a property intended to serve as the matrimonial home with the husband taking sole legal title to the property at registration. When the marriage subsequently disintegrated, the wife ceased full time occupation of the property but returned daily to look after their children and would spend the night on occasion were the husband absent. The husband then mortgaged the property, falsely claiming to be single, and arranging for the inspection of the property by the defendant for when he was aware the house would be vacant. Subsequently, the inspector found no evidence of a wife and the husband stated she had ceased occupation months prior. The inspector did however note that children appeared to be in occupancy.

Issue

Whether the wife’s beneficial interests amounted to constructive notice given the defendant’s failure to make adequate investigations.

Held

The Court found that the wife’s beneficial interest in the property ought serve to bind the defendant as per the doctrine of notice. There were clear inconsistencies between the husband’s paper application and the results of the inspection, and in failing to make further inquiries about this, alongside allowing for the inspection to occur at a time arranged by the claimant, the defendants had failed to fulfil their duty in taking all reasonable steps to discover any beneficial interests in the property and thus ought be bound with constructive notice. Notably, this decision overturned the previous approach in Caunce v Caunce [1969] 1 WLR 286, ChD, under which Mrs Tizard would not have been able to claim.

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