Is Occupation Rent Payable during Estate Litigation?

September 25, 2020 Sanaya Mistry Estate & Trust Tags: , , , 0 Comments

Occupation rent is an equitable remedy available in cases of unjust enrichment. It is a rebuttable presumption that one party shall pay reasonable compensation to another for occupying a premises, which may be rebutted if there is evidence proving that no compensation was to be paid.

In the recent decision of Cormpilas v. Ioannidis, 2020 ONSC 4831, Justice Kurz ordered occupation rent to be payable by the beneficiary of an estate. In this case, Gregory and Barbara owned a home as tenants in common. When Barbara died in 2012, her half-interest in the home was transferred to her grandchildren, as the beneficiaries of her estate. At this time, John, Gregory and Barbara’s son (and the grandchildren’s uncle) moved into the home with his family to help Gregory. Gregory died in November 2017 and his half-interest in the home was transferred to John, as the beneficiary of his estate. John and his family continued living at the home until April 30, 2020.

Despite lengthy negotiations between the grandchildren and John, no agreement could be reached for John to buy out the grandchildren’s half-interest in the home, nor did John and his family move out. The Court found that John had exclusive use of the home from November, 2017 to April, 2020 and that although he paid some expenses as a co-owner, he received a far greater benefit in the exclusive, rent-free occupation of the home. Accordingly, Justice Kurz found that John was unjustly enriched at the grandchildren’s expense and that occupation rent for the period of John and his family’s occupation of the home, was an appropriate remedy in the circumstances.

Interestingly, although the Court found in the grandchildren’s favour, because there was no proper request for rent prior to the commencement of the underlying proceeding, the grandchildren were only entitled to occupation rent from February 1, 2019 to April 30, 2020.

The Court further determined that $1,500/month for the above-noted period was a reasonable award for occupation rent after considering the value of the home, John’s half-interest in the home, the term of its occupation by John and his family, the fact that John maintained the home by paying certain carrying charges (such as taxes and insurance) during the period in question, the fact that the home was not maintained in the best of conditions, and the fact that the home value increased significantly during  the period of John’s sole possession.

Thanks for reading!

Sanaya Mistry

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