Land Law

Ninth edition

by Mark Davys

A Matter of Trust

Alexia, Brian and Charlie are three students who share a four-bedroom house with their landlady, Denise. Denise has decided to sell the house and Alexia, Brian and Brian’s father have agreed, ‘subject to contract’, to buy it. Denise’s solicitors have deduced title (the title to the house is unregistered) and both parties’ solicitors are negotiating the final terms of the contract. In the meantime, Denise has been spending a great deal of time sorting through the loft. A few days ago, Brian was at home all day revising for an important test when he answered the phone. The caller wanted to speak to Denise, and Brian went up into the loft to fetch her. After Denise had gone down to take the call, Brian lingered in in the loft for a few minutes and spotted several boxes and a couple of suitcases grouped together on their own. The boxes had “Gail’s” scrawled on them, and one of the suitcases still had its luggage tag; “Ms Gail Ferrier” which Brian was just able to read by the single bulb that lit the loft.

Brian couldn’t wait to tell Alexia about the suitcases and boxes. The name sounded familiar to Alexia, but it was only much later in the evening, as she was pondering a particularly tricky tutorial question, that she remembered where she had heard it before. Just after she moved into the house there had been a few items of post addressed to “Ms G. Ferrier” and “Gail Ferrier”. Denise had taken charge of the letters, and Alexia had assumed that this Gail was a previous tenant. Alexia tried to turn her attention back to the tutorial question, but before long her eyelids were beginning to droop …

… Alexia found herself in the middle of a nightmare. Interestingly she was sufficiently aware of this to wonder whether she should change her brand of coffee. Alexia was slowly climbing the ladder up into the dark loft. As she hauled herself onto the loft floor, she had the sense that she was not alone - someone else was already there, watching her from the gloom. Gradually, as her eyes adjusted to the gloom, Alexia began to discern a female figure sitting in a rocking chair laughing to herself. The laughing and creaking of the chair froze Alexia’s blood – she had heard that noise every night of her stay at the house, but had put it down to the wind …

… the scene fades into a flashback: Alexia is no longer part of the scene – she is watching from above. Two women stand in front of the house – the same house, although the garden has changed and the front door is a different colour. There is a sign saying, ‘Sold Subject to Contract’. . The women turn. Their clothes are very ‘eighties’. One of them is recognisable as a younger Denise. The other woman is unknown to Alexia. Both are smiling. The unknown woman says, ‘Just as soon as Harry has drafted the trust documentation, I’ll let you have my share of the price…. Yes, yes, I know it seems so formal, but Harry’s a dear, he might be a bit of a worrier at times, but my father swears by him – and father might put his foot down if I don’t listen to him – and then there’d be no money and we’d lose the house.’

… the women begin to change: their clothing is more modern; some grey appears in their hair. They are no longer smiling. Denise stands at the door to the house as the other woman, carrying only a rucksack, walks away from the house. Denise stares after her, but the other woman does not look back. Denise is left, standing, alone: The camera pulls back, Denise and the house getting smaller and smaller.

The scene fades again. We are back in Alexia’s room – Alexia is at her desk, in a cold sweat, staring at her mug of cold coffee.

Suggested answers