Resolving disputes about what to do with a property and TOLATA

6th January 2020

Disagreements about a property

Disagreements can arise about who owns a property, how much of it they own or whether it should be sold. Often this becomes an issue following the breakup of a personal or business relationship, or the death of a co-owner, and if the courts become involved, they may resolve the dispute under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, commonly referred to as TOLATA.

How can property (land) be owned?

The legal owner of a property is the person whose name is shown as the owner at the Land Registry or on the deeds. They are responsible for entering into legal arrangements in respect of the property.

Usually, the legal owner is also the beneficial owner of the property – entitled to the benefits and value which the property represents. However, sometimes the beneficial ownership can be shared with someone else, or belong to someone else altogether. In this case, the legal owner will hold the property subject to a trust.

Sometimes the terms of the trust are written down in a trust deed. But often they are not even discussed, let alone written down. If the terms of the trust are not clear, this can cause a dispute about a person’s beneficial interest in the property.

A dispute can also arise where the owners cannot agree about who should live in the property or whether it should be sold.


Do you need help with resolving a dispute? Contact our Dispute Resolution team now.


So what is TOLATA?

TOLATA gives the court a number of powers relating to trusts of land.

This includes the power to declare how a property is owned. For example, the court might find that a couple intended that they would both equally own the beneficial interest in a property, split 50/50, even though only one of them is the legal owner at the Land Registry.

The court also has the power to order that a property be sold under its supervision and subject to terms it specifies. This may be necessary, for example, where a relationship has broken down, and one person wants to sell the property but the other wants to remain in occupation. The court has wide discretion and will consider a number of factors including the intention of the parties when the trust was created, as well as the welfare of any minors occupying the property.

real estate dispute resolution, what to do with a property, who owns a house

Contact our Real Estate Dispute Resolution team now.


How can TOLATA be used?

Our team of dispute resolution solicitors can advise you on how your property is owned and whether the court is likely to make any specific declarations under TOLATA. We can also advise you on the prospects of obtaining an order for the sale of your property under TOLATA if you cannot reach an agreement.

Once you have a realistic assessment of your position, we can formulate a strategy. If possible, we will seek a resolution outside court, but if this is not possible, we will fight for the best outcome for you.


If you would like to discuss your case, do get in touch on 01905 744802 or at [email protected].