The Facts

Mother contributes to property purchase but living arrangements ambiguous

A case in New South Wales concerned a claim to part ownership of a property.

A woman obtained $147,000 by selling her home and gave the money to her daughter and son-in-law over the period between November 2012 and January 2013, for the purchase of a property in Casula, in south-western Sydney.

The daughter and son-in-law agreed the mother would live with them at the Casula property. The three had agreed that the mother would live in a separate part of the house.

However, another aspect of the arrangement was ambiguous. While the mother thought she would reside with her daughter and son-in-law forever, they thought she would stay with them long term, but not forever.

Mother evicted from property after sharing residence for three years

The mother, daughter and son-in-law lived together at the Casula property for three years, from January 2013 to January 2016.

During this time the mother contributed $18,314 to renovations of the house, while her daughter and son-in-law contributed at least $45,715 to the renovation of the property.

After sharing a residence for three years, the mother, daughter and son-in-law had a falling out and the mother was evicted from the property.

Daughter and son-in-law appeal after mother succeeds in legal action

The mother commenced proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW to claim some charge over the property and be repaid the contributions she had made.

The mother was successful in her claim, but the daughter and son-in-law appealed to the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of NSW.

The primary question on appeal was whether the $147,000 from the mother was an absolute or conditional gift.

The secondary question on appeal was whether the $18,314 provided by the mother for renovations added to the capital value of the property.

case a - The case for the mother

case b - The case for the daughter and son-in-law

  • I provided $147,000 to my daughter and son-in-law to buy the Casula property. I made a clear statement to the bank that the money I was providing was for the sole purpose of purchasing that property.
  • I contributed $18,314 towards the renovation of the property, which added to the capital value of the property.
  • I sold my home to obtain the $147,000 and then gave the money to my daughter and son-in-law. As I had nowhere else to live, I obviously intended to stay with my daughter and son-in-law.
  • I provided my daughter and son-in-law with support in caring for their three children.
  • If I hadn't provided the $147,000, the Casula property would most likely not have been purchased.
  • How could I find a new residence at my age and in my financial situation? I thought they agreed for me to stay forever.
  • My mother gifted us $147,000 that we could spend on anything we wanted, it wasn't just for the purpose of buying the house.
  • We spent $45,715 or more on renovations to the house. My mother only contributed $18,314, which fixed minor faults in the house but did not add to the capital value of the property.
  • My mother did not pay any outgoings during the three years she resided in our home. She paid no rent and she did not pay for expenses like rates or utilities.
  • We were living in separate areas of the home, so it was like two separate households.
  • The money my mother paid was not solely to me. Some money was also paid to my sister.
  • My husband and I never intended my mother to live with us forever. We thought it would be her long-term residence, but not a forever home.

So, which case won?

Cast your judgment below to find out

Hugh McAulay
Disputes and litigation
Stacks Law Firm

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