Bull v Bull [1955] 1 QB 234

Constructive trusts arising from join tenancies.


A mother and son jointly purchased a property, however the son contributed a greater proportion of the original purchase price and took on full legal title to the house. Both parties intended to live in the property on the agreement that the mother would occupy two rooms of the house and the son being the principle user of the remainder. After some time the parties had a disagreement and the son subsequently asked his mother to cease occupation of the property


Whether the mother was entitled to continue occupying the house until it was sold, on the grounds that she was a tenant in common and thus entitled to have her co-possession of the property recognised. Further, how ought the law approach ownership where the parties in question have contributed unequally.


Here, the Court held, with Lord Denning presiding, that the son was holding the property jointly on trust for his mother and himself and that the presumption of sale should not interfere with the mother’s right of occupation before then. Thus, where property is owned by tenants in common, all tenants are entitled to enjoy the benefits of the property and thus a constructive trust can be identified as existing. Further, ownership was considered generally to reflect each parties’ contributions to the purchase price, where there was no significant factor to indicate otherwise. Significantly, the legal principle of fairness was focused upon by the Court.