The pitfalls of living with extended family…

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It is tempting, with the increase in house prices over the last few decades coupled with the limitations and expense for the care of our elderly relatives, to purchase a large  property with the intention of this being occupied by extended family covering several generations.

If it works this seems to be the ideal solution;  it helps the younger generation onto the property market and at the same time provides on hand full-time care for the families more elderly generations.

However, what happens if having bought the property together things go wrong?

The answer is that there is provision in the law for joint owners to be able to force a sale of the property.  If the owners do not agree, the court will need to decide whether the property should be sold.

In a recent reported case the court were asked to consider exactly this point.  The case involved a situation where five brothers had bought a property jointly.   The intention behind the purchase was to provide a home for them and their respective families.    When the court is asked to consider an application where one owner seeks an order for sale they will look at the purpose, i.e. why was the property bought in joint names and what was the intention.

In this particular case whilst the purchase had been made by the joint owners on trust for an eventual sale they entered into documentation which indicated that the additional intention in this case was to provide a home for all five of them and their families.   Their agreement went on to say that they would hold the property jointly would all have a right to live there and furthermore that the property was not to be sold whilst any of them were still alive unless there was unanimous agreement between them.

It is difficult for generations of extended family to get on all of the time.,   Perhaps not unsurprisingly two of the brothers had fallen out and therefore moved out of the property.   It was these two brothers who brought a claim asking the court to order that the property was sold.     It was clear to the court that the secondary purpose could no longer be fulfilled;  it was impossible for all of the brothers to live together.   They simply could not get on.

In the circumstances the court did eventually decide that the property must be sold but gave first right of refusal to the brothers who remained in occupation.

As more and more families consider the purchase of a large property to facilitate extended family living together it is important to recognise that things can go wrong.   To avoid complicated and expensive litigation it is prudent to consider this at the outset and think about what you want to happen if things go wrong.

Invariably families do not of course consider this until it is too late.

Speak to our Family Disputes Team

Amanda Melton heads up the family dispute team at IBB Law and as such is able to provide advice if you find yourself in this situation.