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Mother demanding money for a car bought as a gift 16 years ago


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Hi,

 

I wonder if anyone can give me any advice please.

 

My mother bought me a gift of a car for £2k 16 years ago when I was 23. There was never any talk of paying the money back but about a year later when I sent her a cheque for some money I did owe her (after we had had a falling out) she rang me and said I owed her the £2k as well. I knew I didn't and said so but next time I saw her (she came to visit my aunt in the house where I lived) I handed her a cheque for £2k with the statement that though the car was a gift I was giving her the money and she was not to contact me again. She told me she didn't want the money and to "keep it in my account". She refused to take the cheque and so I walked out of the room and ripped it up. We didn't talk for some time but eventually reconciled. She never mentioned it again.

 

A week ago she text me to say she was having difficulties and wanted the £2k she "lent" me to buy an MX5 (it was actually a Volvo that she bought me as a gift so I have no idea why she is referring to a Mazda MX5 I bought a couple of years later myself - I saved up for it and got a bank loan to pay for it). I felt it was ridiculous and didn't respond.

 

Today I have come into work to find an email from her saying she is making a formal demand for the £2k she lent me for the MX5 and if I don't pay it within 14 days she will make a claim through the small claims court! I am in shock and cannot believe this as well as being extremely upset. The Volvo was a gift, she bought it for me when I was at University and in fact it was her idea to buy the car - not mine. I was a student at the time and wouldn't have bought a car as wasn't working. It is worth mentioning that in the text she sent me she said she would be in a position to give me the money back next year when she sells her house - she isn't making much sense I'm afraid but I really need to know where I satnd legally on this as she is a stubborn and vindictive person and will definitely pursue this if she is able to.

 

Can anyone please advise me how to respond to this email?

 

Thank you for your help in advance - this is a horrible situation and I really could do with some help with it.

 

P

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Hello there.

 

Usually when there are arrangements between friends or family members they are not legally binding unless both parties at the time agree for it to be. To be successful at court she would need to be able to prove on the balance of probabilities that it was a 'loan' rather than a gift.

 

There is also a limitations argument here. *if* there was a contract your mother would have had 6 years to bring action from the first demand for payment. You could argue that since the first demand was well over 6 years ago her right to make a claim would be now 'statute barred' in accordance with s6 of the limitations act 1980 - Of course it would need to be proven that the first demand happened all that time ago and not recently. That said 16 years is a long time and remember that the courts will use the balance of probabilities when considering the circumstances. Why wait 16 years to ask for the money?

 

In short, given what you've written I think it would be very difficult for her to succeed in her action.

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Hello,

 

Thank you for your advice.

 

There was never any agreement that I would pay her back for the car she bought - it was her idea to buy it. I was shocked all those years ago that she demanded the money back and made it clear at the time that she was not owed the money and was being unreasonable - in fact just being nasty as we had had a falling out. I handed her the cheque in disgust and she refused to take it and she has never mentioned it again over the years. There was no verbal or written agreement that it was a loan.

 

Would you advise me to respond to her email saying that her demand for £2k is statute barred and that the car she bought wasn't a Mazda MX5 but a Volvo and it was bought as a gift?

 

Can she actually take this to small claims court?

 

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She could issue papers but you would be able to seek further advice with a view to defending the claim.

My concern with raising a limitation argument with her at this point is that she might try and state that the 6 yeras only just started when she recently made the 'new' demand.

The thing to do here is to ask her why she didn't accept the payment when it was offered 16 years ago when she first demanded the money. If you can get uneqivocal proof that there was a 'demand' back then and nothing since you would have her beaten 100%.

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Thank you agin.

 

Having just re read the email she sent me she has written the following:

 

"Surely, it was good enough for you to have had use of it when you needed it and the fact that I said you could put it in a savings vehicle to gain interest until I requested its repayment (when I really needed it, as I now do"

 

I am not sure but think she may inferring that she said this to me the day I handed her the cheque - she said no such thing! Indeed it has never been mentioned again - I discussed buying my MX5 with her a couple of years later and would have thought if she felt she was owed any money from me she would have asked for it then. She knew I was using my savings and getting a bank loan to buy the MX5.

 

Would your advice be to still ask her why she didn't accept the cheque when it was offered? Surely that is me accepting there was an agreement to pay her back when in fact there was not - I just wanted to give her the money and get her out of my life.

 

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I don't think the courts will look kindly on being used as a forum for what would normally be kept between family members. Although it looks like her demand for money is on fairly shaky ground, I think some effort should be at arbitration first. If that fails and she still wants to take her own daughter to court for the sake of two grand, then so be it, but at least you'll have tried as hard as you reasonably can to prevent such an escalation.

 

In formal arbitration, you would both try to come to a friendly solution in full knowledge of the relevant facts, with your own advisors present if necessary.

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I don't think the courts will look kindly on being used as a forum for what would normally be kept between family members. Although it looks like her demand for money is on fairly shaky ground, I think some effort should be at arbitration first. If that fails and she still wants to take her own daughter to court for the sake of two grand, then so be it, but at least you'll have tried as hard as you reasonably can to prevent such an escalation.

 

In formal arbitration, you would both try to come to a friendly solution in full knowledge of the relevant facts, with your own advisors present if necessary.

 

Thank you Marmaris,

 

I don't know how to go about arbitration - do you know how that works?

 

I think I should respond to her email in saying that she never lent me £2k to buy the Mazda MX5 as she did not and see what she responds with - would you agree?

 

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Arbitration means meeting at a neutral location with a neutral facilitator (not a friend or relative) and some way of recording what was said and agreed. The point is to agree between yourselves rather than having the Judge decide. Maybe the CAB could suggest a family arbitration service. If this works then I'm sure this would be better for relations than your own mother actually suing you in court!

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Surely the statute of Limitation ends 6 years after last payment/written admittance of monies owed, since the OP has never made a payment, then its been statute barred for 10 years :D

 

I would think attempting to claim money via court on a 16 year old event with no written contract would be very, very hard, but I do think Limitation would apply anyway.

 

Given the age, I would think the OP's mother would be hard pushed to even prove she had paid the 2 grand in the first place. (though not impossible)

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Surely the statute of Limitation ends 6 years after last payment/written admittance of monies owed, since the OP has never made a payment, then its been statute barred for 10 years :D

 

I would think attempting to claim money via court on a 16 year old event with no written contract would be very, very hard, but I do think Limitation would apply anyway.

 

Given the age, I would think the OP's mother would be hard pushed to even prove she had paid the 2 grand in the first place. (though not impossible)

 

Hi caledfwlch,

 

Thank you for your post - can she actually even make a claim in the small court after all this time?

 

She may be able to prove that she purchased a car on her debit card but she put the car in my name and as I said only said she wanted the money back for the car when we had a falling out. I seriously cannot believe she is doing this after all this time and would just like to know where I stand legally. I would like to be able to respond to her by saying that had she really wanted the money she should have taken the cheque I offered her all that time ago or indeed raised the issue with me before now and that it is statute barred now anyway.

 

This is very upsetting to me - she has bought my siblings cars over the years and hasn't asked any of them for the money back. She knows I have some savings as I am saving to buy a flat - I think she is only threatening me with this as she is trying to bully me into handing over £2k.

 

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Hi caledfwlch,

 

Thank you for your post - can she actually even make a claim in the small court after all this time?

 

She may be able to prove that she purchased a car on her debit card but she put the car in my name and as I said only said she wanted the money back for the car when we had a falling out. I seriously cannot believe she is doing this after all this time and would just like to know where I stand legally. I would like to be able to respond to her by saying that had she really wanted the money she should have taken the cheque I offered her all that time ago or indeed raised the issue with me before now and that it is statute barred now anyway.

 

This is very upsetting to me - she has bought my siblings cars over the years and hasn't asked any of them for the money back. She knows I have some savings as I am saving to buy a flat - I think she is only threatening me with this as she is trying to bully me into handing over £2k.

 

P

 

She can start a court claim easily, however, I strongly think she would be wasting that money, and if she is having financial troubles, hence wanting the £2k, then thats a good bit of cash to waste! Also remember, starting a claim is very easy, winning it is a different matter altogether - it wont cost you owt, you can defend yourself.

 

I really don't think she has a hope in hell of winning though. If I have read the fees leaflet correctly, due to the amount, its going to actually cost her £300 just to get it in front of a Judge!

 

Proving a gift was a loan is very, very hard. You could try and catch her out by email, throw in the odd question like, why did she decide to turn the gift into a loan. Be brilliant evidence for defence if she responded to that in a certain way!

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Hi caledfwlch,

 

Thanks so much - I see what you mean.

 

I have already responded to her email to refute her claim that she lent me £2k to buy an MX5. It is obvious from what she has said that she doesn't even remember the sequence of events of 16 years ago whereas I remember them very clearly - should she decide to make a claim I will tell the Judge exactly what happened and let them decide whether it is fair or just or within the law to buy a gift for someone and then decide to ask for the money out of the blue and then refuse the money when offered it and then decide to ask for it 16 years later! It seems crazy to me for sure.

 

I do not feel I owe her any money and am saddened that she has decided to try this just because she knows I have managed to save a bit of money but I will need to put my emotions to one side and deal in facts to defend myself.

 

Should she go ahead with this I can just respond myself can I? As in I won't need to get a solicitor to act on my behalf?

 

Thank you for all your help with this - your words have reassured me and I feel a bit better about the situation now.

 

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Surely the statute of Limitation ends 6 years after last payment/written admittance of monies owed

 

The 6 years would run from when the demand for payment is first made. See section 6 of the act, rather than section 5.

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The 6 years would run from when the demand for payment is first made. See section 6 of the act, rather than section 5.

 

The OP says she first tried this on around a year after the car was bought, so I suspect the OP is still covered by Limitation as the first demand was made 15 years ago!

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Hi caledfwlch,

 

Thanks so much - I see what you mean.

 

I have already responded to her email to refute her claim that she lent me £2k to buy an MX5. It is obvious from what she has said that she doesn't even remember the sequence of events of 16 years ago whereas I remember them very clearly - should she decide to make a claim I will tell the Judge exactly what happened and let them decide whether it is fair or just or within the law to buy a gift for someone and then decide to ask for the money out of the blue and then refuse the money when offered it and then decide to ask for it 16 years later! It seems crazy to me for sure.

 

I do not feel I owe her any money and am saddened that she has decided to try this just because she knows I have managed to save a bit of money but I will need to put my emotions to one side and deal in facts to defend myself.

 

Should she go ahead with this I can just respond myself can I? As in I won't need to get a solicitor to act on my behalf?

 

Thank you for all your help with this - your words have reassured me and I feel a bit better about the situation now.

 

P

 

To some people, money is more important than family sadly. It never occurs to them that when your on your deathbed, your bank statement cant give you a cuddle and tell you it loves you :D

 

My personal take is you would be fine dealing with this as a Litigant in Person, if you hire a solicitor, that means forking out, and you wont normally get that back. Other's more verses can advise on the Solicitor decision, but I genuinely don't think this is complex.

 

If she was daft enough to issue a claim, I bet she will forget to follow due process, and issue you with a Letter Before Action first, and will be flummoxed if you send her a CPR request, to provide all documents she will be relying on as evidence :D Not sure if its even allowed as a "cause" or if any "cause" is acceptable to request, but if she did issue a claim, it may be that you could request it be struck out as she is attempting to solve a family dispute by using the courts. As someone said, Judges do not like this sort of thing.

 

You could tell her your savings are locked up in special interest accounts, so you cant access them, and should she go to court and win, you will ask the judge for time to pay at £20 a month ;)

 

I suspect that showing you are getting "legal advice" from somewhere and showing a knowledge of the claims process may well put her off too.

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The OP says she first tried this on around a year after the car was bought, so I suspect the OP is still covered by Limitation as the first demand was made 15 years ago!

 

I agree, hence my post towards the top. Other than that I doubt the 'contract' is legally binding anyway. If the judge can be swayed that it is binding then the OP will need to demonstrate proof that the first demand was way back then. Of course any judge worth their salt is going to ask why it has taken 16 years for the demand.

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