Cooke v Head – Case Summary

Cooke v Head

Court of Appeal

Citations: [1972] 1 WLR 518; [1972] 2 All ER 38


The defendant and claimant were a couple. They planned to buy a house to live in together once the defendant had divorced his wife. The defendant purchased a plot of land in his name, using a mortgage in his sole name and his own money for the deposit. The couple worked together to design and build the house.

The claimant’s contribution included demolishing a building, remove debris, making cement and painting. The claimant also pooled her earnings with the defendant, which they used to pay off the mortgage and buy furniture for the property. The defendant’s contribution to their joint account was larger, however.

The couple’s relationship ended just before the property was complete. The defendant continued living in the home and paying off the mortgage. The claimant sought a declaration that she owned the property jointly with the defendant.

The High Court held that the claimant held a 1/12th interest under a constructive trust. They based this purely on the respective amounts each party contributed to the mortgage. The claimant appealed, arguing that she was entitled to a half share.

  1. How should the court calculate the claimant’s share under a constructive trust in a family home?

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. The High Court erred by failing to account for the total of the claimant’s contributions: in particular her labour in the design and construction of the property. Once this was accounted for, the claimant was entitled to a 1/3rd of the equitable title.

This Case is Authority For…

When determining a party’s interest in a family home under a constructive trust, the court must take into account all of the claimant’s contributions (direct and indirect).


The court noted that the fact that the parties were not married does not affect the law on constructive trust.