Co-owning property is common whether it is for the purpose of an investment or owning your home with your spouse or cohabitee. Similarly, a situation might arise where a person has died, leaving behind one or more properties within their estate.
Whilst everyone hopes that the parties who own the property will agree on how to handle it, this is not always the case. What happens to the home when a relationship breaks down? What about when investors disagree on the best time to sell a property and realise the investment? What happens if one of the owners has a large amount of debt? In any of these circumstances, the parties might want to use the provisions set out in the Trustees of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, also referred to as TLATA.
Who can make an application?
TLATA states that someone can make an application to either the High Court or the County Court if they are a:
- Trustee of the land, or might have an interest in the land;
- Personal representative of a beneficiary;
- Trustee dealing with the bankruptcy of a beneficiary;
- Person holding a charge over the land;
- Person holding a mortgage over the land;
Lots of different people, operating in varied capacities, can therefore utilise the provisions of TLATA. The important aspect of TLATA is that where there is a trust of land, there are statutory provisions stating what can happen to that land and what the court can do about it.
What can a court do?
The court has some discretion in relation to deciding what to do, by looking at why the trust of land was created in the first place. For example, if a couple intended to create a family home before a relationship breakdown, the court might be reluctant to order the sale of the property if the trust can still fulfil its main purpose of being a home for a family. In these circumstances, the court will also have particular regard to the welfare of any children who might be living in the property.
A court has the power to make a variety of orders under TLATA, which include ordering the sale of a property, or an order postponing the order for sale; apporting the beneficiaries’ ownership of the property; an order relating to a beneficiary’s right to occupy the property or for the land to be partitioned without the consent of the beneficiaries.
When to seek legal advice
TLATA disputes can become complicated, and given that property is usually the most valuable asset people have, it is important to take steps to protect your interest in it. If you have any disputes relating to property owned jointly, then you should contact a solicitor to see how they can advise and assist you.
Disclaimer: The information on the TV Edwards website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication.