VCAT’s “co-owner” jurisdiction includes equitable co-owners

VCAT (via its Real Property List) has almost exclusive jurisdiction to hear what are often called “partition and sale” applications between co-owners of land. (See Part IV of the Property Law Act.) But what if the land in question has only a single registered owner?

In Garnett v Jessop [2012] VCAT 156 (13 February 2012) such a registered sole owner contended that VCAT lacked jurisdiction to hear a claim against her by a claimant asserting only an equitable interest in that land.

‘Co-owner means legal co-owner as VCAT has no equitable jurisdiction’ argued the registered owner.

VCAT disagreed. In reserved reasons delivered today VCAT Vice President (and soon to be County Court judge) Macnamara and Member French jointly concluded that the Property Law Act gives VCAT jurisdiction to make orders with respect to equitable as well is legal co-owners.

I appeared for the applicant / claimant.

The decision should cement VCAT’s jurisdiction to hear disputes between joint landowners (however described) who have fallen out with each other over the use and/or sale of their real estate.

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