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Pettitt v Pettitt [1970] AC 777 House of Lords
Mrs Pettitt inherited a house in which her and her husband lived. He spent £800 on repairs and redecoration of the property. She sold the house in 1961 and purchased another property which was conveyed into her name alone. There was some money left from the sale which she gave to her husband to purchase a car. They lived in the new house for four years and then divorced. He claimed that he had a beneficial interest in the property based on improvements made to new house. He estimated he had spent £723 on the property and claimed to be entitled to £1,000 from the proceeds of sale.
Mr Pettitt had no interest in the property. The improvements were insufficient to create an equitable interest in the property.
Lord Diplock:

    "It is common enough nowadays for husbands and wives to decorate and to make improvements in the family home themselves with no other intention than to indulge in what is now a popular hobby and to make the home pleasanter for their common use and enjoyment. If the husband likes to occupy his leisure by laying a new lawn in the garden or building a fitted wardrobe in the bedroom while the wife does the shopping, cooks the family dinner or baths the children, I, for my part, find it quite impossible to impute to them as reasonable husband and wife any common intention that these domestic activities or any of them are to have any effect upon the existing proprietary rights in the family home on which they are undertaken. It is only in the bitterness engendered by the break-up of the marriage that so bizarre a notion would enter their heads."

Lord Reid:

    "It was argued that the present case could be decided by applying the presumption regarding advancement. It was said that if a husband spends money on improving his wife's property, then, in the absence of evidence
    to the contrary, this must be regarded as a gift to the wife. I do not know how this presumption first arose, but it would seem that the judges who first gave effect to it must have thought either that husbands so
    commonly intended to make gifts in the circumstances in which the presumption arises that it was proper to assume this where there was no evidence, or that wives' economic dependance on their husbands made it necessary as a matter of public policy to give them this advantage. I can see no other reasonable basis for the presumption. These considerations have largely lost their force under present conditions, and, unless the law has lost all flexibility so that the Courts can no longer adapt it to changing conditions, the strength of the presumption must have been much diminished. I do not think that it would be proper to apply it to the circumstances of the present case."


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