Do You Have the Evidence to Support Your Claim?

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If you think you have a stake in a property that is not recorded on the title deeds, you should seek legal advice straight away. One example of the consequences of delay concerned an 87-year-old man who claimed that he had contributed half of a house’s purchase price as long ago as 1959.

The property had been bought for £1,200 and placed in his sister’s sole name. In the almost 60 years since, it had risen in value to about £2.2 million. He claimed to have paid the £600 deposit on the house but, given the lack of any formal record of him having done so, he faced an uphill task in proving his interest in the property. A dispute arose within the family after he claimed entitlement to half the property, which culminated in his nephew evicting him from the house.

After the pensioner launched proceedings, he had to rely on antique bank records in an attempt to show that he had paid the £600. He held down a good job at the time and claimed that his sister, then a low-paid seamstress, could not have afforded to pay the deposit herself. However, a judge found that he had failed to discharge the burden of proving that he was the beneficial owner of half the property.

In ruling on his challenge to that decision, the Court of Appeal noted that his nephew had been rightly criticised for the manner of his eviction. The locks had been changed whilst the pensioner was out shopping and his belongings had been placed in bin bags on the street. However, in the absence of any positive evidence that he had paid the £600, the judge’s ruling could not be faulted. Although he had lived in the house for over 40 years, he had no right to continue in occupation as a non-paying lodger and his eviction had been lawful.

Constandas v Lysandrou & Ors.

Rex Cowell