Andrew Constandas, an 87-year old retired engineer has just lost an appeal against his eviction from the home he has lived in since 1973, all of which could have been avoided if he had done one simple thing. Sadly, due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, it is now too late as those that have to join in creating the document are no longer in a position to do so.
Mr Constandas has been locked in a bitter dispute with his nephew, Michael Lysandrou over the Hampstead property. The case began in July 2015, after Mr Constandas went out shopping one day only to return to find his belongings strewn outside in black bin bags. Michael had changed the locks, making his uncle, Mr Constandas homeless. Mr Constandas won an emergency order allowing him back into the property pending the resolution of the case. Now, with the decision of the court, he will find himself homeless again.
The property purchased for £1,200 purchase price in 1959 and now worth £2.2 million was purchased in the name of Mr Constandas’ sister, Mrs Lysandrou. In due course, it was transferred into the names of herself and her husband, Mr Lysandrou. Mr Constandas claimed in court that he had paid half the purchase price of the property. He moved into the property to live with his sister and her husband and had remained there ever since. That was until the Lysandrous’ son decided he had other plans for the property and wanted his uncle out.
The court found that Mr Constandas had been unable to prove his contribution to the purchase price of the house. Remember this goes back to 1959. As such, Mr Constandas could not claim a share of the property and his only status was as a “non-paying lodger.” Unfortunately, by 2015 when the case began, both Mr and Mrs Lysandrou were suffering from dementia and were therefore unable to testify.
I said at the beginning that this could have been avoided. So what should Mr Constandas have done? Well, it all begins with when the property was purchased. If he did, in fact, make a contribution to the purchase price of the property and, if he was intended to own a share, then they should have signed a Declaration of Trust. This is a legal document that states that the person whose name is on the title deeds, or in whose name the property is registered, is holding it on trust for himself/herself and someone else or some others. It should state the background to the purchase of the property including who contributed what amount. It should also state in what proportions they are supposed to own the property. This simple document, sometimes, just a couple of pages long, would have made all the difference to Mr Constandas’ claim. That was the difference between him ending up on the streets and being entitled to a half share of a £2.2 million Hampstead property.
If you are in a position where you have a claim to a property, you must ensure that the legal titleholder signs a Declaration of Trust stating the background and confirming that he/she holds on trust for himself/herself and you. As long as such a document is not procured by fraud or any kind of misrepresentation and as long as the person does not lack mental capacity then this is the best possible evidence you can produce to back up your claim to a share of property if you are not currently the legal titleholder. You can also insert a notice in the property register at the Land Registry so that any purchaser of the property will be aware of your claim.
People who are co-habiting should take particular note, especially where the property is registered in one partner’s name only because that partner is the only one that qualifies for a mortgage.
This is a simple document to draw up provided all parties are in agreement. Do get in touch if you need some advice on this issue. Doing nothing about this means you could effectively be giving away a share of property you own. It would have made all the difference in Mr Constandas’ case but it is now too late for him. But it may not be for you so you should do something about it now. Get your Declaration of Trust drawn up before it is too late.