Dolan v Dolan & Anor  VSC 543, Ierodiaconou AsJ, (14 September 2022) concerns a dispute between mother and daughter over property of which the daughter was registered proprietor, the mother being held to have a caveatable interest based on a constructive or resulting trust. The facts were –
- In about 1998 the first defendant (Christine) and other persons purchased land at Lorne (the parent title) for $105,000 with Christine being registered as to a half interest. They agreed to subdivide it into two blocks, with her taking one. She deposed that she contributed $52,500 towards the purchase. The plaintiff (Shannan), who was Christine’s daughter, deposed that she contributed $20,000 towards the purchase, and it was common ground that Shannan paid Christine $20,000 at about the time of purchase.
- Due to her age and income Christine could not obtain a loan to fund construction of a house. However, a Bendigo Bank employee advised that if she transferred her interest in the parent title to Shannan an acceptable loan could be secured in Shannan’s name. Christine deposed that Shannan accepted her proposal to make this transfer so that Shannan could obtain a loan on Christine’s behalf, but that both before and after subdivision she (Christine) would continue as beneficial owner, and that Shannan also accepted other proposed terms relating to the transfer. Shannan denied accepting this proposal. .
- In 2001 Christine transferred her moiety in the parent title to Shannan, the consideration stated in the Transfer being as “An Agreement to Transfer”. Following subdivision, one block (the property) was transferred to Shannan, the consideration in that Transfer being stated as “In pursuance of an Agreement between the Transferors for partition of the said land …”, and Shannan in 2003 became registered proprietor of this block. The bank established a loan account in Shannan’s name with an overdraft limit of $140,000 secured by a mortgage.
- Christine deposed that the costs for acquisition of the parent title and construction and fit‑out of the house were funded primarily from her personal resources and from the loan account, Shannan only contributing about 7% of overall build costs. Christine also deposed to making mortgage repayments and that she paid all outgoings including council rates, home insurance, and for maintenance and improvement. Shannan deposed that the overall build costs were largely drawn down from the loan account, that from 2004 to 2006 she made loan payments, and that Christine did not use her personal resources to fund these costs.
- Upon completion of the house in 2003/2004 Christine, Shannan, and another family member took up residence. Shannan left in 2006. In 2021 Christine caveated on the ground of ‘implied, resulting or constructive trust’. Shannan applied under the Transfer of Land Act s. 90(3) for removal of the caveat.
Ierodiaconou AsJ dismissed the application, holding –
- There was a serious question to be tried that Christine was the beneficiary of a common intention constructive trust (she alleged as to 93% of the equitable title). This was supported by: her deposing to the required common intention or agreement; reference to an agreement in the Transfer (her Honour appears to state in the Transfer to Shannan of the subdivided block, but quaere this is a slip for the Transfer to Shannan from Christine); and Christine’s contribution to loan repayments. Moreover, it appeared to be common ground that Christine contributed most of the purchase price of the parent title and that for many years she made payments into the mortgage loan account and resided on the property. , 
- There was a serious question to be tried that Christine was the beneficiary of a resulting trust (she alleged as to 65% of the equitable title) arising from her contributions to the purchase price of the parent title and to construction and fit-out. Disputes about whether there was an agreement on the nature of Christine’s interest in the property, whether the presumption of advancement applied, and whether, as Shannan alleged, Christine was guilty of fraud, could only be resolved at trial. , , 
- The balance of convenience favoured maintenance of the caveat because of: Christine’s long residence; her age; evidence of her investing her life savings into the property; the fact that Shannan proposed to sell the property with vacant possession with only $20,000 from the net proceeds being distributed to Christine pending resolution of the dispute; Christine’s claim of a substantial interest in the property; and Christine’s inability to buy another property or rent one in Lorne. Any hardship for Shannan could be met by Christine’s undertaking to maintain mortgage and property expense payments, which would maintain the status quo of many years, and Christine being required within 7 days to commence a proceeding to establish her interest in the property. -
- There would be an order for amendment of the caveat to assert Christine’s claim to a 93% interest in the property. 
Philip H. Barton
Owen Dixon Chambers West
Tuesday, February 21, 2023