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Burgess v Rawnsley [1975]


  • Two partners jointly purchased a house as joint tenants, but the female partner never moved in
  • The partners orally agreed that the female’s share would be sold to the male partner


  • Did this agreement sever the joint tenancy, such that the daughter of one partner could claim entitlement to half of the property?


  • No severance


  • An agreement to sever, to effect severance, must be irrevocable, and must be accompanied by mutual intent under the Williams v Hensman (1861) catalogue, when interpreting the Law of Property Act 1925, s 36(2)
  • Intents were at odds with each other, as the female partner had never intended to move in
  • Lord Denning and Sir John Pennycuick disagreed over whether a course of dealings needed to be enforceable to constitute effective severance, although no issue of a course of dealings arose on the facts of the case
  • The interesting relationship between the two partners was aptly described by Lord Denning at the start of his judgment, and is worth a read for comic value alone


  • [1975] Ch 429
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