In a cautionary tale for unmarried couples who fail to make formal arrangements regarding money and property, a former couple had to go to the High Court to resolve a dispute over their respective shares in a barn conversion worth £400,000.
Arthur Aspden and Joy Elvy, who have two children together, separated more than 15 years ago, but he continues to live in a caravan within the grounds of her barn conversion home.
Mr Aspden has been living in the caravan without planning permission and is currently facing council planning enforcement action. Ms Elvy did not object to him living in the caravan, but the two fell out in June 2009 when she told him that she had formed another relationship and was planning to sell the property.
At the High Court, Mr Asp
den argued that he had only transferred legal ownership of the barn to Ms Elvy in 2006, and contributed substantial sums to its conversion, in the expectation that she would marry him. He had also made a will in her favour. Ms Elvy claimed that she had turned down Mr Aspden's marriage proposal after the transfer and there was no prior suggestion of them becoming man and wife or moving into the barn together. She argued that his contributions to the conversion were an outright gift.
Judge Behrens accepted that Mr Aspden had intended to transfer the barn to Ms Elvy outright, but ruled that he had contributed £65-70,000 to the cost of the conversion, as well as his own labour, and was entitled to a 25 per cent share in the property, which is now valued at around £400,000.
It was the Court's view that Mr Aspden had contributed a large part of his remaining assets to the barn in the hope and expectation that he would be able to live in, and retain an interest in, the property when it was complete and Ms Elvy was fully aware of that.
The Court ruled there was a 'common intention' that Mr Aspden should have some interest in the barn as a result of his very substantial contribution to the conversion works.