Sibling rivalry over rural holiday home

31 October 2011


A case of sibling rivalry was clearly evident in a recent court action by a sister against her brother, set against the picturesque backdrop of the Crofting township of Kilmory in Acharacle. Ms Virdee had built a holiday house for herself and her family on her brother, Mr Stewart’s croft that he had inherited from his uncle in the late 80’s. The informal arrangement between the brother and sister was that she would gain income from the holiday rental of the house, with Mr Stewart being able to have use of the house at all other times it was unoccupied by guests or his sisters family. Because the house was on a croft, they were able to obtain a grant to meet some of the cost of construction.

In 2009, the pair fell out, with Mr Stewart denying his sister access to the house and taking possession of it. As a result, the unfortunate situation arose where brother and sister found themselves going head to head in court. Because of the length of time that had passed between the construction of the house and the action being taken to court, Ms Virdee was barred from claiming that her brother had been enriched at her expense and the court had no choice but to allow the defender, Mr Stewart, to walk out of court without having to pay his sister a penny. And keep the house.
This highlights the trap that many could fall into of assuming when it comes to family, informality in matters of property and finance will be sufficient. Ultimately, Ms Virdee spent money on building a house on land that she had no legal rights to. Many parties may never envisage falling out with there nearest and dearest but this case amongst others shows that it can and does happen. A clear contract setting out both parties’ expectations and responsibilities may have helped, but better still, Ms Virdee’s name on the title deed would have been the ultimate insurance for her.
Inksters are expert at advising on all types of contentious and non-contentious property matters, particularly in rural areas. Please contact us if you need further advice.

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