Squatter gains
Purbrick v Hackney London Borough Council
26 June 2003, Chancery Court

Hackney council owned a dilapidated building which lacked a door and had a collapsed roof. Fifteen years previously, a builder had begun to store his equipment in the building and added a corrugated iron door, which he padlocked. Nobody objected to or interfered with the builder's use of the building and he subsequently added a roof and a new door.

The builder claimed that he had obtained title to the building by adverse possession. This case concerned the builder's appeal from the Land Registry's rejection of his claim.

The court held that the builder had obtained title. He had demonstrated that he had the necessary elements of factual possession and an intention to possess. His addition and padlocking of the iron door showed his intention to exclude the world and it was this intention that was necessary to found an adverse possession claim and not an intention to claim ownership.

Conclusion: the adverse possession regime for registered land will change when the Land Registration Act 2002 comes into force, probably on 13 October 2003. The squatter will not acquire title simply by being in adverse possession for 12 years. Instead, essentially the squatter may only acquire title after 10 years of adverse possession by application to the registrar who will then provide the registered owner with an opportunity to object and remove the squatter.

Are all the terms spelled out?
Richards and another v Julian Vincent plc
25 June 2003, High Court Chancery Division

Julian Vincent plc wanted to buy the business and premises of Richards and another. Following the transfer of Richards' business to Vincent's premises, the parties entered into an agreement by which Vincent agreed to buy Richards' premises. However, Vincent did not complete on the contractually agreed completion date and Richards sued for damages.

Vincent, however, argued that the agreement was invalid because it did not comply with section 2 of the Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989. This section requires that not only should the contract for sale be in writing but it must incorporate all agreed terms. Vincent argued that the contract did not sufficiently identify the property, thereby not complying with section 2. The court disagreed and held the agreement binding on Vincent, who was liable for damages for breach of contract.

Conclusion: ensure all terms are spelt out in one written contract to comply with statutory requirements.