My parents purchased a condo under my name, is there a way for them to legally take the condo back?


The law does not help your parents at all if title to the condominium is registered in your name and they have nothing registered against the condominium - especially if there is no mortgage or anything else registered against tile.  At law, it is yours and they have no legal claim.

Ontario Family Law Podcast

29 - Common Law Separation and Property Division

8 - How your heart can get you into financial trouble - Step Children and Matrimonial Homes

However, Judges in Ontario can also apply the "Principals of Equity."    The Principals of Equity are more fully described in this podcast on Common Law Couples and Property Division.  This is not because you and your parents are considered "common law" but because common law have no right in law to each other's stuff, but they can make claims in equity.

Your parents would say that you are the legal owner, but they are the beneficial owners - or the owners in equity.  This means that nobody intended that you would be owner of the condo, but instead the intention was that you would hold the condo in "trust" for your parents and they would always be the "real owners" even though title is registered in your name.   To succeed, they have to prove that it is more likely than not that this was the case and that they did not intend to give you the condominium as a gift.  You will need some evidence that they did intend to make the condo a gift to you.

If your parents cannot show that the property is a gift, or there is some ambiguity, they can also try to make a claim for "unjust enrichment."   Essentially there is claim it is unfair that you should profit from getting the condominium because they have suffered a large, unjustifiable, loss.   This is explained more in that podcast.  To summarize they need to prove to the judge:

  1. you received a benefit
  2. your parents suffered a loss that corresponds to the benefit (i.e. they are out the money from buying the condo)
  3. there is no "juristic" reason (meaning a reason in law), for you to get the benefit and them to suffer a loss.

If you have been looking after the condominium, and paying the associated expenses without their help, it is hard for them to success because:

  1. it shows that they did not intend to be the owners
  2. you would suffer a loss and they would receive a benefit if they got the condo back and so they would be "unjustly enriched" - assuming you have paid more for those expense than you would to rent the condo from them.

The Principals of Equity are tricky.  Little things can have a big effect on those cases (again that is all explained in the podcast).  So, it would be best for you to speak about the specifics of your case with a lawyer who knows about these kind of cases.

Parents often want to help out their children with first home purchases, but they are also often concerned about a new daughter-in-law or son-in-law getting their hands on that property and getting it away from their child, and possibly the whole family, in a separation or divorce.  The second podcast above goes over the dangers in that situation and how to parents can protect any gift they make to their children - especially in the context marriage. 

Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law (book)

You can get a lot more information about Ontario Family Law issues, including property division, support, and most other common family law issues by downloading this $9.99 e-book for KindleKobo, or iPad/iPhone/Mac or ordering the paperback version.  But, to keep out of trouble, it is always best to speak with a top family law lawyer

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Obviously, there can be a lot of money involved in when there is real estate involved and that means there can be a lot at stake financially.   Get the help of a lawyer immediately to avoid financial hardship.  Contact Certified Specialist in Family Law (and author of the book above), John Schuman, by emailing him, calling 416-446-5869, or using the contact form below.  We answer all inquiries promptly and we can arrange for you to come in quickly for a consultation (charged at a reduced hourly rate).

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