A man sued his own parents in a legal battle over their £2.3 million family farm after their relationship reportedly deteriorated.
Businessman Sean Preson decided to buy a farm with his parents so that he could take care of them. Preson has said that him and his parents had a good relationship before they “slowly crumbed over the years after they began to live side-by-side in two houses” on a farm in Leicestershire.
The trial continues in the High Court over who is the rightful owner of the farm. Sean and his wife are said to be complaining having contributed half the purchase price yet being left with a share worth just 28% of the total £2.3 million value.
The court heard that when the couples bought the farm in 2003, each pair put in £300,000 to cover the £525,000 asking price and renovation costs. Preson said:
“I had a very good relationship with my mother and my father. They were self-made people. I used to talk to them a lot about business deals.
I was close to my mother. We never had any real problem until we bought the farm in 2003. Then things started to change.
The farm was a joint purchase between both families. Each contributed £300,000 in late 2002. We bought the place together because my father had been very ill and in hospital.
I pulled out of a deal to buy a farm by myself when my dad became gravely ill so I could be there for them in their later lives.”
Sean’s barrister, Stuart Benzie, told the judge:
“In 2008, it was discovered that the barn was not registered in the names of Sean and Janina. The barn was and is their family home and this discovery caused great concern.
The issue came to light when Ivan attended the barn when Sean was not present and told Janina that the barn was not registered in their name, and he threatened to make the family homeless.
Sean and Janina contributed 50% of the cost, with the intention of acquiring 50% of the land, save for the dwellings. In this action all they seek is the fair allocation of the land that they agreed to.
It was always intended that each couple should benefit equally from their respective contributions. Both parties intended that they would contribute 50% and receive 50%, save for the dwellings.
Sean and Janina rely on the building of the stables and menage in support of their submissions.
It is beyond question that Ivan and Wendy have been enriched and that that enrichment was at the expense of Sean and Janina…The enrichment was unjust.
This is an unfortunate claim: all claims of this nature are unfortunate, and the dispute has emanated from a breakdown in the relationship between a family.
The court must do justice…to ensure that parties do not make unfair gains by means of the abuse of their strict legal rights.”
The parents’ barrister, Nicholas George, told the judge:
“Ivan and Wendy deny that the claimants’ version of the agreement is correct, and they say that it was actually agreed that each couple would contribute an equal sum – £300,000 – towards the cost of purchase and development of their respective acquisitions, each couple would solely own their respective dwellings – the barn in the case of the claimants and the farmhouse in the case of Ivan and Wendy.
The claimants would solely own the three fields, and Ivan and Wendy would solely own the disputed land.
It is common ground between the claimants and Ivan and Wendy that their agreement, whichever of the two rival versions it was, was never reduced to writing, either by them or by anyone else on their behalves and was purely oral.
The determination of the true terms of the 2002-03 agreement largely becomes a contest between father and son, with the court having to decide whose word is to be believed – credibility is accordingly of paramount importance.”
The case is currently being heard in the High Court.