The recent Court of Appeal decision in Hudson v Hathway has clarified that an email signature is sufficient for a party to transfer their beneficial ownership in a property, highlighting the implications of email correspondence between parties over important legal matters.

Emma Preece headshot

Emma Preece

This case concerned the beneficial ownership of a family home purchased in the joint names of Jayne Hathway and Lee Hudson. Following their later separation, the parties had sporadic email discussions about financial arrangements, in which it was agreed the home would be transferred to Hathway. In one email, Hudson confirmed that “under this arrangement, I’ve no interest whatsoever in the house”, and signed off by typing his name “Lee”.

The transfer of the property became drawn out due to an insurance issue. Hudson brought matters to a head by ceasing all mortgage payments and issuing a claim for an order for sale of the property and 50% of the proceeds.

Hathway relied on the agreement reached in their emails that Hudson no longer had any interest in the home and the Court of Appeal found in her favour, holding that Hudson had effectively transferred his interest to Hathway by sending the email referred to above.


Source: shutterstock / Pressmaster

This took effect as a transfer of Hudson’s beneficial interest, as the court concluded the emails were ‘in writing’ and that signing off by typing his name amounted to his signature on those emails. This was sufficient to comply with the relevant legislation, despite the informality of the correspondence.

This decision builds on others such as Neocleous v Rees (2019), where the High Court decided an automatically generated email footer reading “many thanks David Tear” was a signature for the purposes of separate legislation concerning the transfer of property. The outcome of that decision was that the email amounted to a binding contract.

Careful thought should be given to email correspondence, and if there is an intention that a formal contract should be entered into before a sale is made, all communications should be clearly marked in that manner.

Emma Preece is senior associate at law firm Charles Russell Speechlys