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26 Apr 2024

Family & Matrimonial

What is TOLATA? A Guide for Unmarried Couples

In the realm of property law, navigating disputes can be intricate, especially for unmarried couples.

The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA) is pivotal in safeguarding the rights and interests of cohabiting partners. In this blog, we will explore the significance of TOLATA for unmarried couples facing property-related challenges.

Understanding TOLATA

TOLATA, enacted in 1996, addresses disputes stemming from shared property ownership. For unmarried couples, the absence of specific legal frameworks governing property rights can pose significant challenges. TOLATA steps in to provide clarity and protection in such scenarios, ensuring fair treatment and resolution. It gives courts certain powers to resolve property disputes between unmarried couples.

How Does TOLATA Work?

  1. Recognition of Trusts: TOLATA recognises the existence of trusts concerning land. A trust is a legal arrangement where one party (the trustee) holds and manages property for the benefit of another party (the beneficiary). In the context of TOLATA, trusts often arise in situations where property is co-owned, but the parties have differing beneficial interests.
  2. Declaration of Trust: TOLATA allows parties to formally declare their beneficial interests in a property through a declaration of trust. This document outlines each party’s ownership share, contributions, and rights regarding the property. A declaration of trust serves as crucial evidence in resolving disputes and enforcing ownership rights.
  3. Resolution of Disputes: When disputes arise concerning property ownership, occupancy rights, or financial contributions, TOLATA provides mechanisms for resolution. Parties can seek recourse through the courts, which have the authority to interpret trusts, determine beneficial interests, and make orders to resolve disputes effectively.
  4. Equitable Principles: TOLATA operates on equitable principles, meaning that the courts aim to achieve fairness and justice based on the circumstances of each case. The courts consider factors such as the parties’ intentions, contributions, conduct, and the welfare of any children involved in making decisions.
  5. Sale or Transfer in Property: In cases where co-owners cannot agree on the future of the property, TOLATA empowers the courts to order the sale of the property. This ensures a fair distribution of proceeds or assets according to each party’s right to remain in the property, considering factors such as the welfare of any dependents.

Can I Issue a TOLATA Claim?

A claim under TOLATA can be issued in various circumstances:

  1. Disagreements Over Ownership: If there’s a dispute over who owns a property or the extent of each party’s ownership share, a TOLATA claim can be initiated to clarify and enforce ownership rights.
  2. Occupation Rights: When there’s a disagreement regarding the right to occupy a property, such as between cohabiting partners or joint owners, a TOLATA claim can be filed to assert and protect occupancy rights.
  3. Financial Contributions: TOLATA claims may arise when one party alleges that they have made greater financial contributions to the property’s purchase price, mortgage payments, or maintenance costs than others. The claim seeks to address the fair distribution of assets or proceeds based on each party’s contributions.
  4. Disputes Over Sale or Transfer: If co-owners cannot agree on the future of the property, whether it should be sold or transferred, a TOLATA claim can be initiated to seek court intervention and resolution.
  5. Breach of Trust or Agreement: TOLATA claims may also be filed in cases where there’s an alleged breach of a trust deed or agreement governing property ownership. This could include disputes over the management or use of the property inconsistent with the terms outlined in a declaration of trust.

How We Can Help

By understanding how TOLATA operates and seeking appropriate legal advice when needed, individuals can navigate property disputes effectively with equitable resolutions.

Our Family & Matrimonial Department are dedicated to ensuring you make the right decisions to ensure your financial security. Contact us today.

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