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Trusts of Land Claims (TLATA) - What Is the TLATA Claim Process?

Posted on 01st July 2024 in Dispute Resolution

Posted by

Jack Matthews

Paralegal
Trusts of Land Claims (TLATA) - What Is the TLATA Claim Process?

The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (‘TLATA’) gives the Court power to resolve disputes about ownership of a property, or land. These disputes commonly arise between cohabiting couples but may also be between friends and family members.

Applications made under TLATA are usually made in the following circumstances:

  1. To quantify the nature and extent of the ownership of the property; and
  2. To determine whether there should be a sale of the property.

For more information, please see our insight on Cohabitation and Property Ownership, which discusses the role of TLATA in resolving cohabitation and property ownership disputes in more detail.

If a party co-owns or can establish they have a ‘beneficial’ interest in a property, then they can apply to the Court under s14 of the Act. Where a party decides that an application should be made under TLATA, the following steps in the TLATA Claims process should be considered:

Who can make an application?

Any of the following individuals can make a Court application under TLATA:

  • The legal owner of the property i.e., those registered on the title deeds at HM Land Registry.
  • A person who has an interest in the property i.e., an individual who has substantially contributed to the value of the property, despite not being registered on the title deeds.

Pre-application: initial steps (‘Practice Direction on Pre-Action Conduct’)

Before making the application to the Court, you should also consider what pre-action steps need to be taken, including:

  • Sending a Letter of Claim to the Defendant setting out your case and waiting for a Letter of Response from the Defendant.
  • Considering whether alternative dispute resolution (ADR) will be appropriate. In most cases, you should try a method of ADR to avoid potential adverse consequences and to try and resolve the dispute before engaging in (what can be) expensive and lengthy litigation. The usual method of ADR in these cases is Mediation.

Procedure

In terms of the procedure to use, the Civil Procedure Rules 1998 will apply. The application is made in the County Court, or the High Court, using prescribed forms and supported by witness evidence and any documentary evidence supporting the claim.

The claim will then follow a strict timetable of filling evidence, case management conferences and, if necessary, a final hearing.

Evidence

Collating as much evidence as possible to establish the true ownership of the property is vital in any case, but especially in a claim made under TLATA.

First, official copies should be obtained from the Land Registry to confirm the ‘registered owner(s)’ of the property and to see what (if any) restrictions have been placed on the registered title.

It is also often necessary to obtain a copy of the conveyancing file to see details of the property ownership and the intention of both parties at the time you purchased the property. For this reason, correspondence from the time of purchase relating to the parties’ intentions, and any advice given to you, or any agreements made, should be checked. For example, this may explain why the property was purchased in joint names, but one party made a much greater contribution to the purchase price than the other.

Bank statements may also need to be obtained to evidence contributions to the mortgage payments and/or other expenditures at the property since its purchase (such as substantial renovations).

Interim Applications

Depending on the circumstances of the cases, it may be appropriate to consider applying to the Court for an interim injunction. For example, to prevent the sale of the property which is the subject of the dispute or to prevent the proceeds of the sale from being distributed until the dispute is resolved.

Costs

The general rule for costs orders under the Court’s discretion is that the unsuccessful party will be ordered to pay the costs of the successful party, but the Court may make a different order as it is given wide discretion.

How can Tozers help you?

Our team at Tozers have a wealth of experience dealing with these sorts of matters and offering you the best advice on whether we think you should issue a claim and then supporting you throughout the process if you choose to do so. Contact one of our specialists today, who will be more than happy to explain how we can assist.

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