When relationships between couples, family members and friends break down, the last thing you want to worry about is what will happen to your home. There are unique laws for people who own a house together but are not married, and legal expertise is essential for protecting your financial interests. When emotions are running high, we’ll be the straight-talking, approachable and level-headed advisor you need to resolve the matter quickly.
Unpicking the complexities of the law
Family law is traditionally used to decide how families divide assets. However, for families, friends and couples that are unmarried but own or live in properties together, you need dispute resolution solicitors to deal with matters if there’s a disagreement about ownership. At Blaser Mills Law, our team has a deep understanding of the Trust of Lands and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (ToLATA). We have helped many clients like you decide how to settle the matter, whether you’re the legal owner or a non-owner.
We are known for our legal expertise and honest approach. When your home and finances are at risk, we believe it is essential that you fully understand the implications of any outcome. This is why our solicitors will make it clear exactly where you stand in terms of the law, and then take you through your options for resolution. Going through a ToLATA claim is a complex process and we’ll advise you at every step to handle the matter professionally.
What is a ToLATA claim?
The Trust of Lands and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (ToLATA) is in place to protect cohabitees and settle property ownership disputes should the relationship or informal agreement break down. When carried out effectively, it enables both parties to protect and recover their interest in the property, whether or not they are on the title deeds.
There are many reasons why you might want to force the Trust of Lands and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. For example, you may want to force the sale to recover your financial interest or you might want to move back into your home when an ex-partner or friend refuses to leave. Parents and grandparents who are creditors for the property might also want to recover their financial interest in the property. In some cases, you need protect your interests when a creditor is seeking to repossess the property, either under bankruptcy or to complete a court judgement.
Understanding your rights under ToLATA
There are two main types of ToLATA claim. Resulting trusts are based on the non-owner contributing to the purchase price, unless it was strictly given as a gift. The second, constructive trusts, are based on an understanding that the non-owner will benefit from shared ownership. A constructive trust is specifically about shared ownership, rather than occupation of the property, and it usually needs to happen before the property is bought. If there’s no agreement in place, the court may consider other financial contributions like mortgage payments, bills and for repairs, insurance and renovations – but not just for DIY.
Another way to assess property rights is through proprietary estoppel, where someone has relied on promises of shared ownership and acted to their detriment as a result.
With a ToLATA claim, judges take a “broad brush” approach to working out each party’s share in the property, and they may take both resulting and constructive trusts into account. Whether you are raising or defending a ToLATA claim, having a legal expert on your side can provide clarity on how to meet the judge’s criteria, so you can put forward a strong case and prepare for cross-examination.
The ToLATA process
Raising a ToLATA claim is a civil procedure with a clear process to follow. It usually starts with exploring alternative dispute resolution (ADR) routes, which is a way of coming to an agreement outside the courts, often through mediation. If you can come to an agreement in this way, it is more likely that one of you will be able to keep the property, as court outcomes tend to state that the property will be sold and the lump sum is divided in a certain way. For this reason, ADR is more cost-effective and generally more practical. Our dispute resolution team has helped many clients settle matters this way, quickly.
If you can’t reach a resolution, however, you will need to follow court proceedings. The process involves clearly outlined steps to follow, and we will take you through each one to make sure every box is ticked, and you are in a strong position for success.