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Williams & Glyn's Bank Ltd v Boland [1981] A.C. 487

The equitable interest of spouses in occupation of a matrimonial home.

Facts

The appeal concerned two consolidated cases. In a matrimonial home, each wife contributed to home’s purchase monies and mortgage instalments, rendering each tenant in common in equity to the extent of their financial contribution. Both homes were conveyed in the legal names of their husbands.  Each husband legally mortgaged the homes to a bank. When they defaulted, the bank started proceedings for possession of the homes. The wives were in continuing occupation of the home.

Issue

The question arose as to whether the beneficial interest of a wife in actual occupation of the property is capable of taking an overriding interest under the Land Registration Act 1925 over the effect of a legal and registered mortgage.

Held

The House of Lords held that the beneficial interest of a spouse in actual occupation of property legally owned by another spouse possesses an overriding interest in the property, that takes priority over a legal charge. Firstly, on the facts, the Court held that each wife is treated as a person in actual occupation, as a spouse physically living in the house, affording her protection accordingly. Secondly, the Court held that the Land Registration Act 1925 recognises the rights of occupiers, in light of widespread developments in shared ownership, and that the equitable interests of a spouse in actual occupation of a matrimonial home under a trust for sale are capable of being recognised as overriding interests protected by section 70(1)(g) of the Act, overriding that of a legal charge by a legal owner. The Court noted that, in lieu of the way that the Act confers protection to occupants, banks ought to make more careful enquiries into occupation. Accordingly, the Court held that the wives’ interests overrode the bank’s legal charge. 


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