Co-Habiting and Pre Nuptial Agreements

In Walsh v Singh 2009, Miss Walsh claimed a beneficial interest in a property purchased in her partner Mr Singh’s sole name under a constructive trust or proprietary estoppel when the couple, who were engaged and had been living together, separated.

Miss Walsh did not pay towards the purchase of the property, but did make a significant contribution to the property and loaned money to Mr Singh. The property was bought in Mr Singh’s sole name and Mr Singh paid the mortgage.

Miss Walsh claimed that although the property was bought in Mr Singh’s sole name, it was intended she have a half share. Miss Walsh loaned Mr Singh money to buy nearby land and Miss Walsh used this to argue it showed the purchase of the property and land was a joint venture.

She had also found the property, researched tenancy and planning permission, contributed to obtaining planning permission in joint names and contributed to the renovation works, helped Mr Singh with his other business activities and gave up a career to run the equine centre that they had planned to use the property for.

The judge ruled her contributions would be sufficient to give rise to a constructive trust or proprietary estoppel if the necessary common intention coupled with detrimental reliance existed or if the necessary belief in a shared or joint beneficial interest was both held by Miss Walsh and encouraged by Mr Singh. The judge’s findings included:-

* Mr Singh had provided the money and paid the mortgage on the property therefore the burden and risk were his alone;
* There was an implicit arrangement that Mr Singh owned and controlled the property but paid Miss Walsh maintenance;
* Miss Walsh’s contributions were down to her commitment to their relationship and her hope to marry Mr Singh, not because she believed she had a beneficial share of the property;
* Mr Singh’s contributions were much more significant;
* The couple kept their finances separate;
* There was nothing in writing.

The judge was unable to accept Miss Walsh’s claim she was promised or encouraged to believe she would have a share in the property. The judge ruled she did not have a claim against the property but was entitled to the repayment of the loans she made to Mr Singh.

In addition to the property, the couple jointly owned a villa in Italy which the judge held was beneficially owned in equal shares and that Miss Walsh was entitled to the return of her engagement ring which she had given to Mr Singh to re-size but had not had back.

Had the couple made a Living Together Agreement or Pre-Nuptial Agreement setting out who had contributed towards the purchase of the property and whether the property was intended to be shared, particularly as the property and mortgage were in one parties’ sole name, then the costly application to court for a beneficial share would have been avoided.


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