A farmer’s son has lost a High Court battle over ownership of a £2.5 million cottage.
Miles Heaver told the court his father gave him the cottage on the family’s West Sussex estate when he got engaged in the 1990s, though there was no change of legal ownership.
Mr Heaver and his wife have lived in the property since they married and have raised their children there. He claims to have spent £700,000 improving the cottage, which features a swimming pool, tennis court and top-of-the-range Aga.
Mr Heaver said he worked for his father for little or no salary for years, and gave up the chance to join a lucrative housing market by putting his money into improving the cottage instead.
His father, meanwhile, said he had never given his son the cottage and planned to retire there himself. He said he had let his son and daughter-in-law live in the property simply ‘to put a roof over their heads’.
Judge Edward Murray ruled that Mr Heaver ‘an experienced businessman, knowingly took a risk’ by living in the cottage and was ‘mistaken in law’ if he believed the money he had spent on the property gave him some kind of entitlement to it.
Expert legal advice on rural property, Wills and estate-planning
As this case illustrates, informal family understandings are, in reality, often misunderstandings. To avoid costly litigation either before (as in this case) or after (as in most cases) death, it is always best to take legal advice to ensure the property owner’s intentions are properly understood and enforceably recorded.
For expert legal advice on rural property matters, Wills and estate-planning, please contact Private Client Partner Jonathan Midgley: