Hudson v Hathway

3 minutes reading time

The Court of Appeal decision in Hudson v Hathway [2022] shows how the law in relation to property ownership and trusts of land is adapting to reflect the ways in which people communicate in the modern world.

In this case, Mr Hudson and Ms Hathway were joint owners of a property and were cohabiting together.

They owned the property as joint tenants both in law and equity.

In 2009, Mr Hudson left the property, and Ms Hathway continued to reside there with their two children.

In 2013, there was a discussion about how their assets (which included the property) would be divided.

At the time, there was an ongoing and somewhat protracted insurance claim progressing due to an oil spill that affected the property.

In several emails, Mr Hudson told Ms Hathway she could have his interest in the property but that she could not have a claim on any other assets.

Ms Hathway accepted this deal by email.

Both Mr Hudson and Ms Hathway put their names at the end of the email.

The proposal was that the property would be sold.

It did not happen immediately, and Mr Hudson stopped contributing towards the mortgage and outgoings in 2015.

Ms Hathway paid the full amount from that date onwards.

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Hudson v Hathway

The Claim

In 2019 Mr Hudson issued a claim seeking a 50% interest in the property and that the property be sold.

Ms Hathway agreed to the sale of the property but stated she had a 100% interest in the property following the agreement reached by email in 2013.

Ms Hathway’s argument was that the email exchange gave rise to a common intention constructive trust that she had relied upon to her detriment, including undertaking works to the house, paying the mortgage and outgoings and not pursuing any claims against Mr Hudson for child maintenance.

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The Claim v2

The Decision

Ms Hathway was successful at first instance.

The matter progressed to the Court of Appeal, and the Judge agreed that abandonment of other claims amounted to sufficient detriment.

The Judge also found that the email exchange was sufficient to amount to an express disposition of Mr Hudson’s interest in the property pursuant to section 53 of the Law of Property Act 1925 (“the Act”).

To comply with the requirements of the Act, there must be a signed writing to create or dispose of an interest in land or to declare a trust.

The Judge was satisfied that this had been complied with because the exchange of emails was in writing, and the fact their names were placed on the bottom of the email was sufficient to amount to a signature.

This is an interesting case and has potentially far-reaching implications.

Emails may appear informal, but in this case, the email exchange was sufficient to show a clear intention to dispose of an interest in the property.

This case demonstrates how the law is ever-evolving with technology.

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The Decision v4

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