A divorced mother-of-two who was sued for trespass by her banker ex-husband after she refused to leave his £6million home after they split today won her court battle over his demand for £600,000 in rent.
Jayne Richardson Derhalli, 57, and Kerim Derhalli, 58, enjoyed the spoils of his stellar finance career, having two children during their 27-year marriage.
They shared a five-bedroom home in one of London’s most exclusive streets, St Mary’s Place, Kensington, as well as an 18th century estate in Devon.
But he moved out in 2014 and, as part of a divorce settlement in 2016, agreed to pay her £6.4million and millions more on the sale of their former home, which was in his name.
However, the sale was delayed in the difficult post-Brexit referendum property market, sparking a bitter court battle over her refusal to get out or pay £600,000 rent.
Last year, High Court judge Mr Justice Fancourt ruled Mrs Richardson Derhalli had been entitled under the terms of their divorce settlement to stay rent-free for whatever amount of time it took for the house to be sold. Mr Derhalli attacked the ruling as ‘absurd’ bringing a challenge against it in the Court of Appeal.
But handing victory to Mrs Richardson Derhalli today, justices said he had no right to a single penny in rent from his former wife.
Jayne Richardson Derhalli, pictured, refused to leave the former marital home, claiming she had a right to stay in the property despite her ex’s lawyers insisting she must start paying rent
Mrs Richardson Derhalli remained in the property when the sale was delayed due to Brexit
Lady Justice King said the banker appeared to have been trying to dodge the financial consequences of the Brexit referendum after the house sold for £5.9million, considerably less than the £8million expected.
The court heard that Mr Derhalli, the former head of commodity trading at Deutsche Bank who had amassed £800million for clients during his career, married Mrs Richardson Derhalli in 1989.
The family enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, with their Kensington home and other properties including a sumptuous 18th century estate in Dawlish, Devon, complete with 12 acres of pleasure gardens.
But their relationship hit the rocks in 2012 and the former couple, who have two grown-up children, ended their 27-year marriage with divorce in October 2016.
Mr Derhalli moved out of their London home into rented accommodation in 2014 and, in 2016, the former couple agreed a ‘clean break’ consent order to divide the family wealth.
Under the terms of that deal they agreed the London house, which was in Mr Derhalli’s name, would be sold and he would pay her another £2.25million plus half of the sale proceeds afterwards.
But they failed to find a buyer for the Kensington house at its original £8million price tag, due to the impact of Brexit on the London property market, the court heard.
Kerim Derhalli, pictured, sued his ex-wife for £600,000 in rent as she stayed in their marital home when the sale was delayed after their divorce due to Brexit
Mrs Richardson Derhalli stayed put in the former matrimonial home and, in March 2017, her ex’s lawyers requested that ‘she either vacate the property within four weeks or start paying rent for her occupation.’
But she refused to budge, claiming she had a right to stay in the property, which had been the family home for over a decade, until sale, rent-free.
In the end, after nearly three years on the market, the house in St Mary’s Place sold for just under £6million, with the wife quitting the house ‘on or shortly before the completion date.’
The husband sued his ex, demanding £600,000 in back rent – at a rate of £5,000 a week – for the time she stayed living in the house after he insisted she leave.
He initially won before a judge at Central London County Court, but the decision was overturned by Mr Justice Fancourt following an appeal at the High Court in November 2019.
But he fought on to the Court of Appeal, claiming that the ruling set a dangerous precedent for future divorce cases as it implied that every spouse remaining in their home pending sale would able to do so rent-free, even if owned by their former partner.
Pictured: An aerial view of the 12-acre country estate in Dawlish owned by the Derhalli family
He was the legal owner of the house and the terms of the divorce settlement did not allow her to continue to live there rent-free, his lawyers insisted throughout.
His barrister, Michael Glaser QC, argued that the claiming of rent did not go against the ‘clean break’ nature of the divorce settlement because Mr Derhalli’s demand resulted from his ex’s refusal to get out post-divorce.
‘The suggestion that the husband, for a period of two-and-a-half years, would be excluded from the matrimonial home and the wife allowed to occupy rent-free would, we would say, be absurd,’ he added.
Today, Lady Justice King, Lady Justice Asplin and Lord Justice Arnold threw out the appeal, meaning Mr Derhalli is not owed any rent and will also face a substantial bill for lawyers’ fees.
Giving judgment, Lady Justice King said the parties had tried hard to ensure that their divorce settlement was a ‘clean break’ with no way of it ending up in court.
Instead, due to the ‘personal animosity’ between the former couple, they had pursued the case through three separate courts, resulting in a ‘somewhat sorry cautionary tale.’
The £6million home in St Mary’s Place, Kensington, at the centre of Mr Derhalli’s legal battle
Mr Derhalli appeared, with the benefit of hindsight, to be trying to be ‘relieved of the consequences of the Brexit referendum and the impact it had on the sale of the property.’
‘The order built in every possible protection to prevent either party varying the lump sum and, therefore, the distribution of wealth which had been agreed between the parties,’ she said.
‘In my judgment, the husband’s interpretation of the order would serve to undermine that clear intention by reducing the lump sum payable to the wife by the very significant sum of £600,000, she having no other means to satisfy the husband’s demand for rent at £5,000 per week.’
The couple had expected the house to sell ‘relatively briskly’ and she would then receive the substantial additional sum, but they did not know Brexit would have such ‘serious consequences’ for the housing market.
‘The court cannot take into account the fact that this expensive property in fact remained unsold for over two years,’ said the judge.
She added: ‘It could be inferred…that it is the husband, and not the wife, who now seeks to invoke hindsight and to be relieved of the consequences of the Brexit referendum and the impact it had on the sale of the property.
‘In my judgment, the judge in an unimpeachable judgment applied the law correctly and was entitled to conclude that the effect of the parties’ agreement was that the wife was entitled to stay in occupation of the matrimonial home until such time as the house was sold.’