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Leigh v Dickeson (1884) 15 QBD 60, CA

Equitable accounting between co-owners of property

Facts

In this case a property was co-owned by two individuals. One of them (who was in possession of the property) decided on a need to effect repairs on the property and went ahead to carry them out unilaterally. He used his own funds to carry out these repairs.  Having completed the repairs, that co-owner felt that since the property was co-owned, then the other owner should also pay for their share of the repairs. He therefore launched the action in the current case in order to obtain the desired contribution to the repair costs from the second owner.

Issue

The issue in this case was whether there was a duty on co-owners to repair the property and whether once one co-owner carries out repairs, the other is obliged to contribute to the repair costs.

Held

The court held that there was no obligation on co-owners to repair a property and that they can leave a property to fall into disrepair. In addition, where there was a voluntary unilateral decision on the part of one co-owner to effect repairs, the other co-owner(s) is/are not obliged to contribute (unless they have agreed to)  as to hold otherwise would mean that one co-owner could force the other(s) to spend money on repair they do not wish to, simply by spending some themselves.  This is the case regardless of whether the repairs increase the value of the property. However, the co-owner seeking contribution could instead get some relief through a suit of partition.


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