Understanding TOLATA Proceedings: 10 Essential Questions Answered

TOLATA proceedings, governed by the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, hold increasing relevance in today’s legal landscape, particularly in resolving property disputes among unmarried couples. As the prevalence of cohabiting couples rises and property values soar, disputes over property ownership become more frequent and financially significant. Here, we delve into 10 key questions about TOLATA proceedings to shed light on this complex area of law.

  1. What is TOLATA and when is it used?

TOLATA stands for the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. From a relationship context it is used to resolve disputes over the ownership and rights to property.  These disputes often involve unmarried cohabiting couples but can also involve other family members, or business partners.

  1. Can I apply for an order under TOLATA?

Yes, if you have a beneficial interest in the property in question. Common applications involve disputes over who owns the property or what shares each person holds. Parties can claim a beneficial interest in a property based upon  financial contributions or other factors even if they are not named upon the title to the property.

  1. What types of orders can the court make under TOLATA?

The court can make a variety of different orders. Those relating to cohabiting couples include a ‘declaration of interest’ to determine the extent of each party’s beneficial interest in the property, and an ‘order for sale’ dividing the net proceeds of sale according to each parties’ beneficial interest.

  1. How does the court determine beneficial interests?

The court considers factors such as financial contributions, the intentions of the parties, and any agreements or understandings they may have, or believe they have, about the ownership of the property.

  1. Can I force the sale of a property under TOLATA?

You can apply for an order for sale. The Court will then decide whether it is reasonable and fair in the circumstances to order the sale of the property.

  1. Can the court consider non-financial contributions?

Yes, the court can take into account non-financial contributions, such as significant work or improvements made to the property but given the complexity of this area of law we would advise seeking legal advice.

  1. How long does a TOLATA case take to resolve?

This depends upon how the matter is resolved. If the matter can be concluded via negotiation or mediation then matters will likely take a number of months.

If Court proceedings are required then matters can take up to a year or more to be resolved depending upon the Court’s availability to hear the matter

  1. What happens if one party refuses to comply with a TOLATA order?

If a party refuses to comply with a court order made as a result of TOLATA proceedings, the other party can take enforcement action. This will include applying to the court to ensure that they comply with the order.

  1. Do I need a solicitor for TOLATA proceedings?

You can represent yourself but it is advisable to instruct a solicitor due to the likely complexity of matters and the potential implications should any errors be made.

  1. What are the costs associated with TOLATA proceedings?

Costs can include court fees, the costs of any legal representation, and any other related expenses such as for valuations to be completed upon the property if a valuation cannot be agreed.  Depending upon the outcome of the case the court may order one party to pay the other party’s costs.

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