The High Court has awarded a property to parents who believed they already had ownership of the property when in fact their son was the registered owner.

Their son organised the purchase of the house, and provided his own property as collateral, but registered the property in his own name rather than in his parents’ names as he had promised.

The parents initiated proceedings in the High Court in an attempt to gain ownership of the property from the son. They claimed that they were in fact beneficial owners of the property, and that while the property was in the son’s name, he was merely holding it in trust for them.

The son argued that he purchased the house as an investment property, and that he was allowing his parents to live in it. He stated the mortgage payments his parents made to him to repay what they owed constituted rent, and that therefore his parents were mere tenants, not owners.

The Court considered what was agreed at the time of the sale of the property and found that it was clear that the property was purchased for the parents, and that they should be considered the owners of the property. This was the intention of both of the parties at the time of the purchase, and only afterwards did the son decide to claim the house to be his for the purposes of investment.

It was decided that the house would be held by the son on constructive trust for the parents. This means that the parents receive the benefit from being owners of the house.

When buying or selling a property it is crucial to sort out all of the relevant documentation when the sale of the property takes place. In this scenario, legal proceedings could have been avoided if there was a clear signed agreement in writing.

If there is confusion around ownership of property, it is wise to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Shaun Cousins and Matthew Binnie