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Law Notes Land Law Notes

Co Ownership Acquistion Notes

Updated Co Ownership Acquistion Notes Notes

Land Law Notes

Land Law

Approximately 987 pages

Land Law notes fully updated for recent exams at Oxford and Cambridge. These notes cover all the LLB land law cases and so are perfect for anyone doing an LLB in the UK or a great supplement for those doing LLBs abroad, whether that be in Ireland, Hong Kong or Malaysia (University of London).

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Co-ownership Acquisition Notes

What are the basic aspects of co-ownership of land?

Whenever land is co-owned, whether co-ownership arises in relation to the legal title, the beneficial interests, or both, the land is held on trust. All co-ownership trusts are considered to be ‘trusts of land’ and are governed by the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA 1996).

What are the different types of co-ownership?

English law distinguishes between two types of co-ownership:

  1. Joint tenancy – each tenant is wholly entitled to the land when acting collectively.

    1. No single joint tenant has any “share” in the land with which they can deal individually – each owns the whole

      1. Thus when a joint tenant dies, the title “survives” in the remaining joint tenants – this is the concept of survivorship

        1. Where the co-owners all die simultaneously such that it is not clear who dies first, it is presumed that the younger survived the elder (s184 LPA 1925)

      2. BUT: this concept of each owning the whole should not be taken too far:

        1. The courts have recognised that each is entitled to a share of any income deriving from the co-ownership (for instance, from rent)

        2. Statute has provided for exception with regards to the financial provision for dependents of a deceased joint tenant, liability for inheritance tax, and liability to creditors

    2. Co-ownership of a legal estate can only be created and exist as a joint tenancy per s1(6) of the LPA 1925

  2. Tenancy in common – the tenants hold “undivided shares” in the land

    1. Lawson and Rudden capture the essence of this in saying that:

      1. [In a company] the shareholders each have a separate thing with which they can alienate or leave to pass on their death, but none of them can go into the HQ office, point at a room and say “I claim my share”. So if there are two owners in common of a house, each has a separate, though intangible, asset: it is the house which is not divided into distinct “shares”.

    2. Tenants in common are able to deal with their shares individually (through selling them and assigning them in their will)

    3. The only unity required for a tenancy in common is unity of possession (see below)

    4. A joint tenancy can be converted in to a tenancy in common by the process fo severance

Why does English law distinguish between these two different types of relationship?

The two sorts of co-ownership reflect the fact that different relationships require different sorts of arrangement

  • Survivorship will not necessarily suit all types of owners, such as between business partners

  • A tenancy in common is a more flexible form of co-ownership which is not subject to the strict requirements of joint tenancy

How do you identify whether are particular instance of co-ownership is a joint tenancy or a tenancy in common?

In order for a joint tenancy to be present, the four unities must be present:

  1. Unity of possession

    1. Each owner must be entitled to possession of the whole, distinguishing co-ownership from separate ownership of various parts of the land

      1. For instance, A and B must be entitled to possession of the whole of Stamford Bridge, they cannot be entitled to possession of one half of the pitch each.

    2. It is not necessary for each co-owner to occupy the whole

  2. Unity of interest

    1. Joint tenants must have interests of the same type and quantum

      1. For instance, a gift ‘to A and B for life concurrently and to C in fee simple’ creates an interest of a different quantum and therefore will create a tenancy in common

        1. However a ‘gift to A and B for life, remainder to B’ creates a joint tenancy, as this is just another way of stating the concept of survivorship.

    2. If the joint tenancy is subjected to severance, then, the shares will automatically be the same size

  3. Unity of title -

    1. The interests must derive immediately from the same title (ie from the same deed or will)

      1. This will be significant where one joint tenant transfers his interest – the purchaser’s title will derive from conveyance of the share, whilst the original co-owner’s title will derive from the document creating the joint tenancy

        1. Therefore one co-owner transferring their interest will reuslt in severance

  4. Unity of time

    1. Each of the joint interests must vest at the same time

      1. Problems will therefore arise where a gift of land is made to ‘the children of D at 21’ where D’s children will all reach 21 and attain their interests at different times

    2. This unity is weak because it does not apply to gifts by will or conveyances to uses (in modern terms, trusts)

      1. Today, concurrent interests always take place under a trust, and so it is questionable whether or not unity of time has a significant role any more

How does severance of a joint tenancy take place?

Severance is the process by which a beneficial joint tenant becomes a tenant in common. There are four methods by which severance can take place.

The first three are set out in Williams v Hensman by Page-Wood VC:

  1. Acts operating on the tenant’s share

    1. If any of the four unities cease to exist, then the joint tenancy must terminate

    2. This must be an act operating on the share, unilateral declaration of intent to sever by one joint tenant will not be effective (unless it comes under statutory severance).

    3. The act can be unilateral so long as it obstructs one of the four unities

      1. The act does not need to involve actual disposition, merely entering in to a contract for sale will be sufficient (Page-Wood VC in Williams v Hensman)

    4. The act can be voluntary or involuntary

    5. It seems illogical to talk of a tenant’s share being acted upon, given that there are no shares in a joint tenancy

      1. BUT: the act of severance effectively frees up a tenant’s share.

    6. Where A B and C are all joint tenants and C transfers her interest to D, this severs C’s share by shattering the unity of title, However A and B will continue as joint tenants of their combined two thirds share. Survivorship will continue to operate.

  2. Mutual agreement

    1. There...

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