Family breakdown over a property dispute

    Family breakdown over a property dispute

    The legal principles surrounding property ownership can be complicated and promises made can be binding.

    The background

    In 2013, Sidney Davies was successful with a claim against his mother, Margaret Davies, now 91 years old, that his father had promised him a derelict barn and just over an acre of land.

    It had been alleged that his father, now deceased, had promised him the land and barn over 40 years ago but that his mother had refused to hand over the property, not wanting to split up the farm.

    Court decision

    Taking everything into consideration, the court decided that Mr Davies had been promised the barn and due to his actions in reliance of that promise, it would be unconscionable for him not to be able to enforce the agreement.

    Given the breakdown in the family relationship, the court felt that a suitable sum ought to be paid to Mr Davies to represent the value of the barn and the land, rather than him being awarded the property.

    Mr Davies, therefore, was awarded £68,000 plus his legal costs, amounting to more than £50,000. This sum was secured against the entire farm, valued at around £2 million, on the agreement that Mr Davies would leave the property.

    Having left the property and moved away from the farm, Mr Davies sought to obtain payment of the sums due to him from his mother. Despite over a year passing, Mr Davies did not manage to recover any of the money due to him and therefore began enforcement proceedings against his mother.

    Decision appealed

    Mrs Davies appealed the decision in a hope to stop her ultimate eviction and sale of the farm. She was, however, unsuccessful.

    Lord Justice Briggs and Lord Justice Longmore, sitting on the appeal, gave Mrs Davies until 24 November 2016 to make payment in full with the warning that should she fail to do so, she would face eviction and the farm would be sold.

    The outcome

    This matter has not yet reappeared in open court. Therefore, it is not known whether Mrs Davies paid the money owed, was evicted and the farm sold, or whether some other agreement overpayment was made. What is known, however, is how important it is to be clear on the implications of promises made regarding land.

    It is always important to seek independent specialist legal advice when seeking to establish property ownership. Should you find yourself faced with such a query or dispute, our specialist Property and Dispute Resolution Teams are on hand to assist you.

    [Originally published in March 2017; updated in January 2020]

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