What Property Rights do I have if I am Co-Habiting with my Partner?
There is a growing trend in the United Kingdom for couples to favour living together, known as co-habitation, rather than getting married. Many ‘cohabitees’ believe that they have a “common law marriage” with the same property rights as married couples. Unfortunately this is not true.
Often upon separation or death of one cohabitee, the most valuable asset is the family home. Your rights upon separation or death will depend upon how the property was initially purchased and any written agreements between you both.
Co-habiting, Separation and Death
Property can be owned in one of two ways, either as joint tenants or tenants in common. If you own your property as joint tenants both you and your cohabitee each own all of your property. If one cohabitee dies their interest in the property will automatically pass to the other under the law of survivorship. If you own your property as tenants in common you each own a share of the property. If one cohabitee dies their share in the property will pass according to the terms of their will or, in the absence of a will, according to the rules of intestacy.
Following separation you are both entitled to remain in the property. If one of you wishes to sell the property you are entitled to receive your financial share of the equity in the property or apply to the Court for an Order for sale. If the home is only in one person’s name that person has a legal and financial interest in it. The other person will be required to demonstrate they have made a significant contribution to the property sufficient to establish a financial interest in it. This is often difficult and can be very expensive.
Jordans can advise you in relation to co-ownership of a property or what to do if you are separating and advise as to your interest in the family home.
How Do I Protect My Interest?
As a co-habiting couple it is advisable to enter into a co-habitation agreement or a declaration of trust. This is a document which contains important decisions made between you and your partner at the beginning of your relationship or during it. The document can cover ownership and occupation of your home, responsibilities in relation to paying household bills including the mortgage and utilities and any agreed arrangements in relation to how property will be divided upon separation or death.
If you require advice or assistance in relation to co-habitation or other family law matters at Jordans Solicitors we have a dedicated family solicitors team who can help. Please dial 01924 387 110 and ask to speak with a member of the family law team or visit our website and request a callback.