Pier pressure—disclaiming onerous property in bankruptcy (Hunt v Withinshaw)

Pier pressure—disclaiming onerous property in bankruptcy (Hunt v Withinshaw)

Louis Doyle of Kings Chambers, considers the judgment in Hunt v Withinshaw and the clarification it provides on the effect of disclaimer of onerous property in bankruptcy and the court’s approach to vesting orders.

Original news

Hunt v Withinshaw (Former trustee in bankruptcy of Steven James Hunt) and another [2015] EWHC 3072 (Ch), [2015] All ER (D) 253 (Oct)

The present case concerned a pier, the freehold of which was owned by Mr Hunt until he was made bankrupt and the freehold vested in his trustee in bankruptcy. Among other things, the Chancery Division dismissed Mr Hunt's application for a vesting order, holding that it would not be appropriate in all the circumstances to make an order vesting in Mr Hunt the pier or any part of it.

What was the background to the application?

The procedural background to the case is rather involved, but its essential elements require consideration. There is something in the observation that, as a litigant in person, Mr Hunt was granted a degree of leeway that might not have been shown by the court to a professionally represented litigant.

Mr Hunt acquired the registered freehold title to Colwyn Bay Pier on 8 April 2004. He was made bankrupt on 17 July 2008. At the date of the bankruptcy order the pier included a small accommodation unit which the borough council (Conwy) accepted amounted to a dwelling house and the sole or principal residence of Mr Hunt for the purposes of section 283A of the Insolvency Act 1986 (IA 1986).

On 8 July 2011, or at least by 12 July 2011, Mr Hunt’s trustee applied for an order for possession and sale of the pier, so as to be within the three year period in which such an application must be made—with the consequence that the interest in the dwelling house did not re-vest in Mr Hunt on

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About the author:

Stephen qualified as a solicitor in 2005 and joined the Restructuring and Insolvency team at Lexis®PSL in September 2014 from Shoosmiths LLP, where he was a senior associate in the restructuring and insolvency team.

Primarily focused on contentious and advisory corporate and personal insolvency work, Stephen’s experience includes acting for office-holders on a wide range of issues, including appointments, investigations and the recovery and realisation of assets (including antecedent transaction claims), and for creditors in respect of the impact on them of the insolvency of debtors and counterparties.