The Supreme Court has handed down its judgment in the case of an unmarried cohabiting couple, Jones v Kernott [2011] UKSC 53. The couple purchased their Essex house in joint names in 1985, 4 years after they met. They had two children together and owned their home in equal shares when Mr Kernott left in 1993. Ms Jones continued to live in the house with the children and paid the mortgage and other bills. Mr Kernott stopped making contributions towards the running of the house and made limited contributions towards supporting the children. The value of the house increased and in 2006 Mr Kernott indicated that he wanted to claim a beneficial share in it.

The County Court ruled that their common intention of joint beneficial ownership had changed since the original purchase of the house and decided that Mr Kernott was only entitled to a 10% share. Mr Kernott appealed to the High Court which was dismissed, Mr Kernott then appealed to the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal allowed his appeal, deciding on a 50/50 split because they owned the house in equal shares when they separated and neither had done anything to change the situation. The Supreme Court has instead agreed with the County Court and ruled that a 90/10 split is fair.

This is an ordinary couple with modest assets who have had to go through the courts at a lot of expense. Whilst the Supreme Court's decision may change the position by introducing a principle of "fairness" we believe that the law is overdue for reform and we would welcome more clarity.

Does this now mean, that the majority view of The House of Lords (as it then was) in Stack v Dowden [2007] namely that 'The search is to ascertain the parties' shared intentions, actual, inferred or imputed, with respect to the property in the light of their whole course of conduct in relation to it' is confirmed or rebuffed?