Curran v Collins: unfair provision for co-habitees?

assetsThe outcome of a recent appeal has highlighted once again the situation whereby a co-habitee is not entitled to financial support or rights in property upon relationship breakdown, but a husband or wife in the equivalent position would be.

The case of Curran v Collins [2015] EWCA Civ 404 highlighted this issue. This was an appeal against the decision of a circuit judge that Ms Curran never acquired an interest in property rights owned by Mr Collins during the course of their relationship. The circuit judge had also ruled that she had no interest in the kennel business run from the property.

Ms Curran and Mr Collins had been in a relationship from 1977 until they separated in 2010. The judge found that Ms Curran moved in with Mr Collins in 2002. In 1984 Mr Collins purchased a first property for £29,995, his father having provided £5,000 as a gift and £5,000 by way of a loan. This was sold to finance the purchase of a second property, a house in Feltham. In 2007, Mr Collins purchased a third property, The Haven. The acquisition was financed by a mortgage of £562,500 taken out by Mr Collins, in part by the net proceeds of the sale of the Feltham house, and another loan of £12,000 from Mr Collins’ father.

Ms Curran claimed an equitable right in the property known as The Haven. She claimed there was an understanding between the couple that she should have half share of the property. She also claimed that she had made contributions from her salary from which household bills and mortgage payments were made. She also claimed joint share of a kennel and cattery business which was carried out from The Haven.

Lady Justice Arden dismissed Ms Curran’s appeal. All properties were in Mr Collins’ name, which meant Ms Curran had to prove that she was entitled to a share. As there was no explicit agreement between the parties so Ms Curran had to show she reasonably believed that the common intention was that she be entitled to a share. Ms Curran also had to demonstrate that she had acted to her detriment, for example by working on the property or making payments towards it, on the basis of that shared intention (Grant v Edwards (1986)).

Her Ladyship found that Ms Curran had made no financial contribution to the purchase of The Haven nor was any part of the loan (given by Mr Collin’s father to his son for the purchase of the property) made out to her. The judge also ruled that did Ms Curran not really work in the business and neither was she a partner. She was also found to have no share in the property or in its proceeds and to have made no financial contributions because she did not earn enough.

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