Repeal of Joint Family Homes Act supported

The New Zealand Law Society supports a Bill which would repeal the Joint Family Homes Act 1964.

The Law Society has released its submission to Parliament’s Justice and Electoral Committee on the Joint Family Homes Repeal Bill. This was prepared in response to a request from the committee on the impact of repeal on protection from unsecured creditors.

In its submission the Law Society compares the protections available to those registered under the Joint Family Homes Act 1964 with those available to everyone under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976.

It says the protective interests under the 1964 Act are difficult to follow and not conducive to being used by those registered under the Act. The Act also applies only to legally married couples and excludes de facto relationships and civil partnerships.

After considering protection from unsecured creditors under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976, the Law Society says the Joint Family Homes Act will not provide greater protection for couples “unless the High Court can be persuaded to order that certain debts are not to be paid from a spouse’s half share.

“It is likely the Court would not allow legitimate debts to be left unpaid.”

The submission points out that neither Act prevents the sale of a couple’s home.

The Law Society says it agrees with the Law Commission’s view that leaving existing protections in place for existing joint family homes would mean the statute would continue to apply to some couples for many years to come. It says deferring the coming into force of the Repeal Bill would give owners of joint family homes time to reorganised their affairs if necessary.