Caunce v Caunce [1969]

Caunce v Caunce [1969] 1 WLR 286 is an English land law case that explored the application of the doctrine of notice in the context of married couples and the impact of a husband's unilateral decision to sell property without consulting the wife.

A husband and wife jointly contributed to the purchase price of a property intended as their matrimonial home. The property was unregistered land, and the husband obtained sole legal title. Without consulting his wife, the husband attempted to sell the property. The wife sought to prevent the sale by invoking the doctrine of notice. She argued that the purchaser failed to fulfil their duty to identify any beneficial interests in the property. Additionally, she claimed an overriding interest as per the Law of Property Act 1925, given her actual occupation of the property.

The key issue was whether the purchaser's failure to inspect the property for beneficial interests, leading to the discovery of the wife's interest, should bind them under constructive notice. Controversially, the court ruled in favour of the husband, holding that the wife could not employ the doctrine of notice because the law viewed her husband as having the authority to consent on her behalf.

This decision, however, was later overturned. In Williams & Glyn’s Bank v Boland [1980] and more explicitly in Kingsnorth Finance v Tizard [1986], the law evolved. It was established that a wife could indeed seek protection under the doctrine of notice. The current legal stance mandates that purchasers make inquiries about all occupants of a property, even when such occupancy aligns with the title being sold, ensuring that all potential beneficial interests are duly considered.

In conclusion, Caunce v Caunce stands as a case reflecting a historical perspective on the doctrine of notice in the context of marital relationships, with subsequent cases refining and broadening the protection afforded to spouses, particularly wives, in property transactions.
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