Numerous emails are sent every day. You may send an email to your former partner about a property you own together, or you may instruct a lawyer to do this for you.

If you decide to try and resolve this yourself it is important to appreciate the potential pitfalls, especially without having the benefit of legal advice.

Lawyers are trained in law and are paid to communicate on your behalf. They know what to say, when to say it and in what format. You may consider a lawyer’s fees are too high, that lawyers do not bring value to you, or that the law cannot be that complex and you can navigate it by yourself.

The case of Hudson v Hathway [2022] EWCA Civ 1648, is the most recent reminder of the need for former cohabitants to be careful in how you communicate with each other. It reinforces the value of seeking legal advice before making any final decisions on how the beneficial interest in a property should be held.

The facts very briefly are that the Ms Hathway and Mr Hudson were unmarried and had children. They co-owned their home. There was no written document known as a Declaration of Trust defining their beneficial interests (their ‘shares’ in the property). Mr Hudson left the home in 2009. Ms Hathway and the children remained in the property.  In 2013 through a series of emails between the pair, Mr Hudson offered to forego his share of equity in the property if Ms Hathway made no claim against his pension and shares.  He said specifically of the house they owned that he wanted “none of the proceeds of that either…” and he signed the email with his first name.

He later changed his mind and wanted 50% of the net equity upon sale.  It was held that Mr Hudson’s emails did amount to a release of his interest in the property; they evidenced “a clear intention to divest himself of that interest immediately, rather than a promise to do so in the future” and that, as he had signed his emails with his name, the statutory formalities required by 53(1)(a) and (c) of the Law of Property Act 1925 were met.

Therefore Mr Hudson had, in the moment he sent his email to Ms Hathway, expressly released his interest in the home to Ms Hathway.

One other point of note here is that Mr Hudson seemed to believe that Ms Hathway had a claim on his pension and on his shares, hence his offer to walk away if she made no claim against either. He was wrong. As they were unmarried she had no claim against either. However, despite Mr Hudson’s belief being wrong, this did not change the outcome.

If you wish to speak to someone about your property rights or ownership on separation, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me and I shall be pleased to assist.

Karen Fox

Karen Fox

Associate (MCILEX)

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Note: The content of this article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken in any specific circumstance.