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Civil: Case Summary: Proprietary estoppel claim

Updated: Nov 23

The Firm was successful in resisting an Appeal in the High Court, Chancery Division, against the decision made in the County Court at Central London following a trial of the claimant's claim for possession of a property in Golders Green, London ( the "Property") and for mesne profits.


Brief facts of the case

The Claimant was the Personal Representative of the Estate of the late Ferdinand Anyaoha Anaghara, referred to as "the Chief" reflecting his title in Nigeria.

The firm represented the First Defendant, Alice Anaghara ("Alice") who was one of three wives of the Chief. The Chief's first wife, Grace, was referred to as his "statutory wife" in Nigeria, while Alice and the other wife, Benedith, were "customary" wives.

The claimant was the son of the Chief and Benedith. The Second Defendant ("Ike") was the son of the Chief and Alice. The Third Defendant ("Chinwe") was Ike's wife.

The Property was purchased by the Chief in 1976 and has at all material times been registered in his name. Alice has lived in the Property continuously since 1984 with her own children as well as those from the other wives, and continuous to do so. The Chief would visit the Property only intermittently. By 2000 he visited only two or three times a year. He died in 2007.

The Claimant received a Grant of Letters of Administration on 7 November 2017. The only asset in the UK estate was the Property. The claimant served notices to quit dated 5 February 2018 and 17 May 2018 on each of the Defendants.

By her defence and counterclaim, Alice claimed that the Property was held on constructive trust for her, alternatively that she had an equity in the Property pursuant to the doctrine of proprietary estoppel, entitling her to occupy the Property for life.

His Honour Judge Hellman dismissed the claim based on constructive trust, and there was no appeal against that decision. He concluded, however, that an equity arose in favour of Alice pursuant to the doctrine of proprietary estoppel, and that the equity was to be satisfied by the grant of a life interest in the Property in favour of Alice. The Claimant appealed against that conclusion.

Decision

Mr Justice Zacaroli outlined the legal principles applicable to a claim based on proprietary estoppel as succinctly stated by Lewinson LJ in Davies v Davies (2016) P & CR10.Applying the principles, it was held that Alice relied on assurances by the Chief to her detriment and that she was entitled to a life interest in the property. He found that to describe the occupation of the family home by a spouse who had raised the children of the marriage as ‘’rent free accommodation’’ as inapt and unattractive.


The Judge concluded Alice's occupation of the Property rent-free since the Chief's death was not a countervailing benefit which either eliminates the equity (or causes it to have expired) or should be taken to reduce the value of the relief to be granted in satisfaction of the equity.


The Court further held the renovation monies in the sum of £50,000 made by Alice’s son and daughter in law was capable of amounting to a detriment for Alice so as to give rise to an equity pursuant to the doctrine of proprietary estoppel. Mr Justice Zacaroli found that Alice had the good fortune to benefit from her son’s bounty. Her acquiescence in that bounty being directed towards payment for renovations on the property, rather than in some other way, was in his judgement, a detriment in the relevant sense.


Conclusion

For the above reasons the appeal was dismissed


Case details:


Solicitor responsible: Tasneem Raza

Link: http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2020/3091.html

Citation: Anaghara v Anaghara & Ors [2020] EWHC 3091 (Ch) (17 November 2020)

Related article: https://www.pumpcourtchambers.com/2020/11/20/anaghara-v-anaghara-ors-2020-ewhc-3091/

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