It is well settled that the owner of the real estate from the time of the execution of a valid contract for its sale is to be treated as the owner of the purchase money and the purchaser of the land is to be treated as the equitable owner thereof. The purchase money becomes personal property. Thus, notwithstanding the words of the contract and implications which may arise therefrom, the law of property declares that, upon the execution of a contract for sale of land, the vendee acquires equitable title. The vendor holds the legal title in trust for the vendee and has an equitable lien for the payment of the purchase price
Plaintiff sellers entered into a land purchase contract with defendants. After paying almost half the purchase price and making substantial improvements to the property, defendants defaulted in payments and plaintiffs invoked a forfeiture clause under the contract. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs, and held that the defaulting vendee had no rights.
Did the vendee under a land sale contract acquire interest in the property?
The court reversed the order and held that defendants acquired an equitable interest in the property of such a nature that it must be extinguished before the vendor may resume possession. The court held that the plaintiffs were to be treated as a mortgagee and could not summarily dispossess defendants of their equitable ownership without first bringing an action to foreclose.