17 July 2023

The last 15 years or so have seen a good deal of economic turbulence. Now, mortgage rates are the highest they have been since the financial crash of 2008. The war in Ukraine continues to affect the global economy, and inflation could push prices and rates higher still. That is likely to increase the financial pressure on borrowers.

In the circumstances, some co-owners of land may be keen to dispose of the land they co-own. Generally, the co-owners come to an amicable agreement about whether to sell the co-owned land now or to stay put and keep the situation under review.

However, it is not always possible for co-owners to come to an amicable agreement about what should be done, for instance where unmarried partners have decided to go their separate ways and one party wants to realise their investment in the residential property they co-own with their partner but the other party wants to stay put and remain living in the house. Another common scenario is where siblings disagree about whether the house they have inherited from their deceased parents should be sold, or if one sibling should buy out the other’s interest, and the price to be paid in either instance.

Fortunately, the law provides a remedy to break the deadlock – the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.

Under the Act, generally speaking, every co-owner of land and every beneficiary of a trust of land has the right to apply to Court for an Order that the land be sold on the open market – difficult former partners and difficult siblings cannot block the sale of land forever. If they are being unreasonable, the Court will take the matter out of their hands and make an Order that the land be sold and that the party who wants to realise their interest have control of the sales negotiations and the conveyancing. What the Court cannot control though is what the market is willing to pay for the property once it is put up for sale.

The Court does not always grant an Order for Sale. If there is a very good reason as to why the land should not be sold, for instance to ensure that minors resident at the property continue to have a roof over their heads, then the Court can decline to make an Order that the property be sold.

If an Order is made though, the successful claimant will be bound to try and achieve the best price reasonably possible for the property, and to pass on the other party’s share of the net proceeds of the sale. The issue of how much each party is entitled to can be another source of disagreement that can only be resolved through litigation.

If you would like to force the sale of co-owned land or land held in trust or you would like to resist such a sale, contact Peter Livingstone at