TOLATA – Court applications on cohabitation breakdown

The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA) is a piece of legislation that allows separated couples who were cohabiting to deal with any dispute over property in which they lived during their relationship.

TOLATA is the principle remedy for relief and section 14 of the act should be made where there is a dispute over whether the jointly owned property should be sold and to determine the quantification of the respective beneficial shares to each owner. The act can also be used where a party claims to be a beneficial owner of the property and the other owner is either denying the claim or the amount claimed. Often, where the party is claiming to be a beneficial owner, they are not a registered legal owner of the property.

It is important to note that TOLATA applications are not limited to cohabitees. Married couples can apply under this piece of legislation, although they are encouraged to apply under the Matrimonial Causes Act to deal with their finances rather than TOLATA. Other parties such as trustees and beneficiaries under the trust of land can also make an application such as a mortgagee, a trustee in bankruptcy or a personal representative of a beneficiary.

The court can make an order relating to the exercise by the trustees of any of their functions e.g. selling or regulating its occupation as well as being able to declare the nature or extent of a person’s interest in property subject to the trust.

In deciding what order should be made, the court will look at:

  •  the intention of the person who created the trust
  • the purposes for which the property subject to the trust is held
  • the welfare of any children who live in the property or might reasonably be expected to live in the property subject to the trust as their home
  • the interests of any secured creditor of any beneficiary

The procedure in a TOLATA application is often complex and there are strict rules which the parties must adhere to in the process and failure to adhere to them may result in very serious sanctions and costs.

At Hunter & Uro, our solicitors specialise in family matters including TOLATA applications. Serving Bedford, Northampton and Milton Keynes, our lawyers can help you with your family law and divorce matters. Contact us today on 01234 889777 to speak to a solicitor about how we can assist you.


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