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Adekunle v Ritchie [2007] 2 P & CR DG 20

Adassa Ritchie purchased her council house under the right to buy scheme with the assistance of her son, Richard Richie. The property was valued at £12,150 and the discount came to £6,196. Adassa was unable to obtain a mortgage on her own due to her age and finances. Richard agreed to be party to the mortgage. The house was conveyed to them jointly and the mortgage was taken out in joint names and each contributed equally to the instalments. No declaration was made relating to entitlement of the beneficial interest. Richard later married and he and his wife stayed in the property for some time, however, they later moved out when Adassa and his wife fell out. He did return to the property when his marriage broke down. Adassa fell ill and died intestate leaving ten children. Jennifer Adekulne, Richard’s sister, as admistrator of the estate sought a declaration that Richard held no beneficial interest and that the house be sold and the proceeds distributed between the ten children.

Held:

Richard Ritchie was entitled to one third of the beneficial interest.

Behrens J:

“I agree that Baroness Hale (In Stack Dowden) primarily had in mind cohabiting couples living together in either a platonic or sexual relationship; however she does not limit her approach to those cases. This case relates to a domestic relationship between mother and son and in my view is to be decided in accordance with the new approach. It may well be, however, that where one is not dealing with the situation of a couple living together it will be easier to find that the facts are unusual in the sense that they are not to be taken to have intended a beneficial joint tenancy.

I turn then to consider the factors mentioned by Baroness Hale in paragraph 69 of her opinion. The context of the acquisition of the property is very different from that of the normal cohabiting couple. The parties' finances were separate. Adassa Ritchie had 9 other children. She was on good terms with them. There is no reason to believe that she would have wanted the whole of her estate to pass to her youngest son, Richard Ritchie.

When I take these factors into account I have come to the conclusion that this, too, is a very unusual case. In my view the conclusions in paragraph 92 of Baroness Hale's judgment are just as apt to this situation as they were in Stack v Dowden. They are all strongly indicative that the parties did not intend their shares in the property to be equal.”

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