Legal Owenership

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    I have an appeal from someone where we made the decision that they were not liable to HB due to previously owning the property. However, looking into the claim further I am not sure that the claimant ever owned the property.

    The claimant’s mother owned the property and the claimant lived with her in the property. The mother dies but does not leave a will, the claimant is considered to be the next of kin.

    The mother had an equity release scheme on the property, which resulted in £30,000.00 needing to be repaid to the mortgage provider on her death. Normally the mortgage provider should have requested repayment of the funds however, they did not chase this up for over three years. When the mortgage provider realised this, the claimant’s son took out a mortgage on the property so that the claimant could remain in the property.

    We have refused benefit under old Reg 7(1) (h) but I am unsure as to whether the claimant had ever owned this property.

    Currently doing land registry checks to see if the claimant ever had the property in their name. If this comes back confirming that they did not have the title deeds in their name would we still treat them as being the owner for the period the mother died to the date that the son took out a new mortgage.


    The owner is the person entitled to sell the property. This is pretty much a matter of fact, if your claimant was not an owner of it then I can see no way you could argue otherwise.


    Firstly, I presume the property was freehold and not leasehold. If the latter, then that reg will not apply.

    Secondly, you have not explained when and how the property was transfered and to whom. On the limited info you have given, it sounds like your claimant could NOT have continued to live in the property anyway so I think you are right to have doubts.


    The claimant’s son took out a mortgage and re-paid the £30,000.00 debt of the claimants mother. The claimant’s son became the legal owner in July 2004, this has been confirmed by the Land Registry check. Just in the process of checking if the claimant was registered as the previous owner.


    If the mother died intestate and the claimant was the next of kin then ownership of the property would have passed to the claimant when the mother died.

    It sounds to me like the mortgage provider would have still had a charge on the property though and would have been likely to have tried to force a sale of the property to recover the debt.

    If you are satisfied that she could not have stayed in the property without ownership being transferred to the son then I think that you will need to revise your decision.


    Sorry but I tyhink a stage is being missed out here –

    1) Claimant dies intestate.

    2) An administrator is appointed under the Administration of Estates Act 1925. He/she must first obtain letters of administration and then distribute the estate (This can take serious time!) – if your claimant had no siblings then the net value passed to your claimant. However, there was at least one charge on the estate – the £30K. Until the estate was settled the person entitled to dispose of the fee simple was the administrator. This may well have been your claimant but, I think, would have been a different “person” for legal purposes.

    3) Estate passes to your claimant.

    My guess is that the property was sold by your claimant with an “administrator’s” hat on as oppossed to a “beneficiaries”. As such I do not think your claimant could be considered to have owned it.


    Point taken Pete, but my understanding is that the Court of Appeal in Burton v New Forest District Council (R(H) 7/05) found that ‘ownership’ for the purpose of the HB regs was not restricted to ownership of the beneficial interest in a property but also included ownership of the bare legal title.

    In Burton the claimant held the property under a deed of trust, but this principle would also be applicable where the legal title passed on death to the claimant as administrator.

    Assuming that the legal title did pass to the claimant as administrator then I think they could be said to be the ‘owner’ for the purpose of the HB regs.


    Whoops! – Yes, you’re right :oops:.

    CH/1278/2002 (Quoted in New Forest) put’s it pretty much beyond doubt.

    It was legal rather than beneficial ownership I was thinking about but the differentiation between administrator & beneficiary was wrong.

    Still, I’ll shut up & go away now!

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