Northern Ireland

Co Down ex-partner awarded half home equity in repossession

Belfast High Court
Image caption The High Court has ruled the woman is entitled to half the equity in her former home

A High Court judge has ruled that a County Down woman has the right to half the equity in a house despite not being the registered owner.

The case concerned the sub-prime lender Swift Advances which is repossessing the house in Warrenpoint.

Swift claimed that the woman had no legal stake in the house.

However, a judge ruled that she, in fact, owned half the house and had not been told by her partner that he had re-mortgaged it with Swift.

Swift had hoped to repossess the home without considering her interests.

The judge has ordered that the house be sold and the original mortgage paid off. The remaining proceeds will have to be split between Swift and the woman.

The Swift borrower was a man who had an address at Carrogs Road in Warrenpoint.

The court heard how in 2006 the company gave him a £36,000 second mortgage on the property which was already in arrears on the original mortgage. The interest rate was 12%.

Within a year Swift had secured a repossession order.

However, in September 2009, as the repossession became imminent, his partner applied to the court to have it blocked.

She said he had only just told her that the house was on the verge of being repossessed.

Electoral roll

Furthermore, she said she owned half the house as she had put down half the original deposit. She added that she had not been involved in the second mortgage application.

The judge, Mr Justice Deeney, had to decide if she had a legal interest in the property and to what extent.

Swift sought to claim that she did not have an interest in the house and was in fact living at a different address.

Swift's case fell apart when the firm claimed it had used an electoral roll search which showed she was never registered at the Warrenpoint premises but was living at Carraigh Dua in Newry.

However, it emerged that rather than using the electoral roll, the firm had used the search engine and had not properly examined the underlying information which would have shown that the woman was no longer registered at the address after 2002.

In his ruling the judge stated that a "proper examination of the underlying material" would have revealed she was not registered at the Newry address.

Swift also said the mortgage application stated that only one person was living in the house.

However, the woman's barrister produced the mortgage valuer's report which referred to the occupants as "a family".

The judge said this meant Swift were "on notice of other occupation of the dwelling".

Two letters

The case also heard from a Newry solicitor who said that when the couple originally bought the Warrenpoint house, he had only been acting for the man.

However, the woman's barrister produced two letters which the Newry solicitor had addressed to both the man and the woman.

The judge said that in light of those documents it was "simply incredible" for the solicitor to contend that only the man was his client

The court heard that the couple are no longer together and that the woman is working and caring for her children without maintenance from the man.

Mr Justice Deeney said he was "entirely satisfied" that the woman was in legal ownership of the house at all times and is entitled to half the net equity in the premises.