November 12, 2018
This case concerned a disagreement regarding inherited property. The 4 siblings inherited equally a property in Wales from their parents. Jane sold her share to Robert. At the time the case came to court, Robert held 50% and Christopher and Judith held 25% shares each on trust. Robert wished to purchase the unoccupied property. He applied under s14 Trusts of Land & Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA) for an order for sale to him at a price to be valued. Christopher and Judith agreed to sale, but sought that this be on the open market, arguing that only the best possible price could be obtained on the open market. There was a one day hearing of written evidence only. The District Judge took 4 months to deliver Judgement. He directed the property be sold to Robert at a price to be valued. The other 2 siblings obtained permission to appeal under CPR r 52.6(1)(b), that there was a compelling reason the appeal should be heard. The appeal was dismissed.
a) The delay in Judgement was not per se a ground for appeal. There was no evidence of any prejudice arising as a result of the delay.
b) Rule 52.21(3) provides an appeal will be allowed where the decision was wrong or unjust because of serious irregularity. When challenging Judicial discretion you must demonstrate the Judge erred in approach or in relation to the facts, or that he failed to balance factors fairly. A Judge is given a wide exercise of discretion and the appeal court will only interfere with that exceptionally.
c) It was argued the court has no jurisdiction to order a beneficial owner to sell his interest in the property to one of the other beneficial owners, but it can direct the property be sold and that a beneficial owner have the opportunity to purchase it. In this case the Judge had correctly taken account of the fact the siblings had previously agreed that Robert could buy the property from the others. The Judge hadn’t made any errors of law or acted unjustly in following procedures. He took into account all matters he should have, and it fell within the ambit of his discretion.
It’s not unusual for beneficial co-owners to wish to purchase the other owner’s share in a property. Where there is dispute the case of Bagum v Hafiz  provides useful guidance of the direction the court can make under s14 TOLATA. The court has wider discretion than the trustees regarding disposal of the property. The court is unlikely however to standardly direct trustees to deal with a property in a specific way. This kind of direction will therefore be fairly unusual. We are able to provide advice on all types of financial remedy proceedings.
If you have a family case where you require some advice or representation, please contact Mavis for an appointment with a family solicitor on 020 8885 7986.