Teasdale v Carter and Teasdale [2023] EWHC 490 (Fam)7 March 2023

Published: 27/03/2023 09:00


Moor J. Appeal in farming estoppel case with astronomical costs far exceeding the value of the property in question.

The first respondent, Ms Carter, was the elder daughter of the appellant mother and second respondent father. During the parents’ financial remedy proceedings on divorce, Ms Carter sought a declaration that she was entitled to the transfer of her home, an agricultural property called Cow House, from the names of her parents into her sole name on discharge of its mortgage. Her claim was founded on expenditure of £200k (mainly raised through a mortgage which she paid) and associated labour in renovating what had once been a barn into her family home, in reliance on the father’s repeated promises (known to the mother) that the property would be hers. The father did not contest this. The appellant mother had asserted that Ms Carter’s payments amounted to no more than her putting her stamp on the property and that she was a tenant. At first instance, HHJ Shelton found that estoppel was made out, and that minimum award necessary to do justice was the transfer of the house to her. The planning consent for renovation had required an agricultural tie but neither Ms Carter or her husband fulfilled that restriction – this was not pertinent to the appeal.

Mother appealed against findings of fact, failure to make certain findings, and that remedy was disproportionate.

Dismissing the appeal: HHJ Shelton had heard oral evidence over 7 days and it could not be said that he made a finding that was not open to him or that was against the weight of the evidence. There was a clear finding as to promise and detrimental reliance. The weight of the evidence supported Ms Carter’s contentions. The remedy was proportionate given that Cow House was built for Ms Carter’s family, she had lived there for 13 years, had paid for its construction by direct payments and discharging the mortgage, and it was her ‘forever home’. It was very different to cases where the claimant merely had a right to reside. At [64]:

‘I am clear that, if the test for proprietary estoppel is established in a situation such as this, the correct remedy is a transfer of the property as promised. Indeed. I take the view that the so-called “clean break” would be a form of compulsory purchase against the wishes of the owner of the property, which would not be an equitable remedy.’

The mother had been ordered to pay one half of the costs of Ms Carter and the father. HHJ Shelton found that H was entitled to representation and that the same costs order should therefore be made for him as was made in relation to Ms Carter’s costs. At [75]:

‘For the future, if there is ever an issue as to the representation of a party at a piece of ancillary litigation prior to financial remedy proceedings, an application should be made to the judge in advance for a ruling as to whether or not a costs order will be available at the conclusion.’

This would enable the parties to know where they stood and their potential exposure.

Class Legal


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