Property ownership disputes

The firm's ‘very committed’ team demonstrates ‘strong commercial acumen’.

The Legal 500
Real Estate

Other than in the event of divorce, there is no statutory regime for the division of property when relationships break down. The majority of property ownership disputes in this country are now dealt with by the civil courts in accordance with property law and trust principles.

These principles are relatively rigid and focus on the documents available, particularly the title register, and on the joint intention of the parties concerned. This can create unsatisfactory situations for those relying on others ‘to do the right thing’, rather than on clear written evidence.

Over recent years the number of disputes between joint property owners and sole owners / individuals in occupation has increased enormously. The rise is largely being driven by the economics of property ownership and couples’ tendency to cohabitat for lengthy periods before marriage, if indeed they marry at all. We now deal with a wide range of circumstances in which disputes have arisen - from disagreements between unmarried couples about what share of the sales proceeds they should receive after they have moved from their former home to claims involving property which is only registered in one person’s name from a partner who has made a contribution to either the initial purchase or mortgage payments.

As a result of the changing landscape of these disputes and common misconceptions, expert guidance should be sought if interests and objectives diverge. Our real estate litigation team has considerable expertise in this complex area and offers high quality advice in a proactive and pragmatic way. Although litigation is not always necessary and should be avoided where possible, it may help to secure a successful outcome.

Clients also benefit from our close working relationship with the firm’s highly regarded family law team who can assist with financial claims under the Children Act and cohabitation agreements.

We offer expert advice on:

  • claims involving unmarried couples who have purchased property together without documenting their shared intentions
  • disputes between sole name owners and partners who have contributed to mortgage repayments, household outgoings or building works
  • cases where parents have contributed to the purchase of property for their child and his or her partner and the relationship later breaks down
  • claims involving individuals who have invested in property jointly with a family member, friend or business partner
  • disputes between beneficiaries who have inherited property jointly but disagree on how to deal with it

Recent work highlights

Missing signature

Advising a private investor on recovering funds he had placed in a residential redevelopment without a written agreement. A settlement was reached at mediation and he obtained a sum which exceeded his original investment, reflecting the beneficial interest that had arisen on the property via a resulting trust.


Soured friendship

Providing guidance in a case involving two university friends who purchased a property together in unequal shares. After a disagreement five years later, one of them asked us to assess their respective beneficial shares and advise on how best to bring an end to the arrangement.


Orders for sale

Regularly assisting co-owners in proceedings under section 14 of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act when one of the co-owners wishes to sell their property against the other’s wishes.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP