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Property Rights for Cohabiting Couples

By: Emma Jones - Updated: 19 Apr 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Property Rights Cohabiting Partner Joint

When you are cohabiting with your partner there are many possibilities about the accommodation you are living in. Perhaps you are renting through a joint lease, maybe you are living in their house, or perhaps you have a joint mortgage. Whatever your circumstances, unless you are married or have legal documentation, you will have no rights to their portion of the property if you split up or your partner dies.

Separation

If you have been living with your partner and then split up then you are likely to left without a place to live. If you have a joint rental agreement or mortgage then it is up to the both of you to sort out what arrangements you will make. However, if you have been living in your partner’s house then it will not be as easy. Even if you have been contributing to the mortgage or paying your way in other methods such as being a stay at home mum, unless your name is on the deeds, you have not right to the property. It is important to create a cohabitation agreement to protect yourself and lay out what you both expect while you are still together and amicable.

Who will inherit it?

If you are not married to your partner, and they have not made a will stating that you are to receive their estate then you will not inherit the property when they die, even you are already living in it. If your partner has children then the inheritance will automatically go to them. If not then it is passed to their parents and after that their next closest blood relative. It does not matter how long you have been with your partner, if it has not been made legal then it does not count.

Joint Tenancy

When you enter into a joint mortgage with someone there are two ways in which can work. If you have ‘joint tenancy’ then the property will pass to the surviving partner automatically when one owner dies. If you have ‘tenancy in common’ though then the property will passed on according to inheritance law or an official will. This is something that you need to sort out when you first arrange the tenancy agreement. A lot of couples don’t think about it or don’t see the importance of making these decisions. However, if one of you passes away you want to be sure your partner won’t be left out in the cold.

Making a claim

If there is no will and the property passes to a distant relative through the inheritance laws then you may still be able to make a claim. Initially you can try and contact the beneficiary directly and hope they are reasonable about your situation. If not, and you have been living with your partner for more than two years then you may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975.

Your property rights are quite cut and dry in legal terms and it is important to make sure your legal documents are set out the way you want them to be. If you do not have a joint tenancy agreement then be sure to create a cohabitation agreement and a will to protect yourself and your partner.

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Steph - Your Question:
Can anyone offer advise. My partner has lived with his mother for some years. She bailed him out when he went bankrupt 15 years ago and sold her house in order that debt were paid off and they bought a house together - he paid the mortgage on all properties and all bills and she's not worked in 30 years has no private pensions and is now 71. This is the third house in 15 years they have lived in together and the current mortgage is £1200 a month - to which he pays all utility bills - she occasionally pays for food bills. The mortgage is in his sole name for the property which was bought in 2009 she put a £59k deposit down. When the house was bought she had a Deed of trust drawn up stating she would need to consent to the house ever being sold and that if it did sell she would get 100% of equity which at the time he signed. We are now getting married and he feels he is entitled after paying the mortgage and bills for the past 15 years he's entitled to a 50/50 split in the equity. The house is currently being sold and her solicitors are saying unless she consents to the sale and gets 100% of all proceeds she will not sign the paperwork. What can we do to push the sale through as he can no longer pay this mortgage and bills on his own and wants to get the equity from the sale out. Can we force a court order and can we get a TOLATA to contest the deed of trust how quickly and how costly would this be? If the sale goes through is there anyway this money could be held in Escrow until a court sorts the equity split?

Our Response:
Due to the compexity of your question, in this case you would have to seek legal advice.
RelationshipExpert - 20-Apr-16 @ 1:47 PM
Can anyone offer advise.My partner has lived with his mother for some years.She bailed him out when he went bankrupt 15 years ago and sold her house in order that debt were paid off and they bought a house together - he paid the mortgage on all properties and all bills and she's not worked in 30 years has no private pensions and is now 71.This is the third house in 15 years they have lived in together and the current mortgage is £1200 a month - to which he pays all utility bills - she occasionally pays for food bills.The mortgage is in his sole name for the property which was bought in 2009 she put a £59k deposit down.When the house was bought she had a Deed of trust drawn up stating she would need to consent to the house ever being sold and that if it did sell she would get 100% of equity which at the time he signed.We are now getting married and he feels he is entitled after paying the mortgage and bills for the past 15 years he's entitled to a 50/50 split in the equity.The house is currently being sold and her solicitors are saying unless she consents to the sale and gets 100% of all proceeds she will not sign the paperwork.What can we do to push the sale through as he can no longer pay this mortgage and bills on his own and wants to get the equity from the sale out.Can we force a court order and can we get a TOLATA to contest the deed of trust how quickly and how costly would this be?If the sale goes through is there anyway this money could be held in Escrow until a court sorts the equity split?
Steph - 19-Apr-16 @ 4:29 PM
@Pinklou72 - you would have to take it to court, but rather than pay the hefty legal bills, you may be able to self-litigate, see the Barr Council's - A Guide to Representing Yourself in Court, link here. You will need to prepare your case fully and do your research regarding your rights. As long as you bought it together and it was an even split, then this sounds like a straighforward and uncomplicated case that shouldn't prove too difficult for the court to make a decision. If the court forces her to sell the house, she must comply. However, you will need to be careful here too, as there are many people who will do all they can in order to avoid selling i.e put off /stall potential buyers etc. So you would need to bring her lack of co-operation in your previous appeals for her to negotiate a settlement to the attention of the courts. Keep all documentation, texts, emails etc to her regarding this matter as evidence. If you are not contributing to the mortgage, it might be that the court will give a less than 50-50 split. However, if you bought it together, you do have rights. I hope this helps.
RelationshipExpert - 27-Apr-15 @ 2:46 PM
Hi My partner and I have separated after 4yrs together(never married or had children together)we separated 2 yr ago. We brought a house together 4yr ago and had a joint mortgage Now I want my share of the house as a 50/50 after mortgage is paid which leaves roughly 50k between us. she refuses to pay me my half..offering me £3000! I have been to my solicitor and sent numerous letters even offering mediation (which she refused) Also asking her for3independent valuation of propert(which she refused) There's no negotiations with her and I am at my whit end!! My solicitor says it will cost in excess of 6k to take her to court and even if I was awarded anything I have the knowledge she would refuse to pay me! She wants my name off the mortgage but I want. To just split equally and move on as I now have a baby and would like the money Please has anyone any sensible...legal standing advise as I am going round in circles Many thanks in advance
Pinklou72 - 24-Apr-15 @ 9:07 PM
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