A cohabiting couple whose relationship has broken down will walk away with an equal share of their £1m home due to a conversation they had in a pub.
That was the decision of the High Court in a case involving Claire Chipperfield, 52, and Andrew Horn, 58, who lived together for 15 years and have two children.
When they bought the house, Mr Horn paid most of the £280,000 deposit, with Ms Chipperfield contributing £39,000. At the time, they had a discussion in a pub in which they agreed that the house belonged to both of them equally.
During the conversation Mr Horn told his partner: “Well, that’s it Chip, we are now 50/50 owners — but that means you owe half the debt as well.”
Over the years, the house increased in value to £1m.
When the couple separated, Mr Horn claimed that the majority share should belong to him as Ms Chipperfield had only contributed £39,000 towards the deposit.
He accepted that the conversation in the pub had taken place but argued that it was not to be taken literally and that the couple had kept their finances separate throughout their relationship.
The judge stated that Mr Horn had “failed to acknowledge the sacrifices which Ms Chipperfield made to the family in terms of her career and the significant contributions which she made to the family finances”.
He ruled in favour of Ms Chipperfield, saying: “Contrary to the submission made on behalf of Mr Horn, the words were to be given their literal meaning, which is also their natural and ordinary meaning. The reference to 50/50 meant both literally and in context that the ownership would be shared in those proportions.”