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Despite common belief, the rights of unmarried couples are not as protected as they are for their married counterparts. Unmarried couples have no basic rights to their partner's property if they split up. Forward planning is key.

Whilst it is not considered the romantic thing to do, it is always a good idea to consider entering into an agreement with your partner to decide how any property and money should be divided if you were to separate. These are known as Cohabitation Agreements and the Family Team at Stephen Rimmer LLP we can assist you in drafting such a document. Contact us on 01323 644222 or enquiries@stephenrimmer.com

Planning for possible future events could save you a great deal of time and money should your relationship come to an end. If however, you did not enter into an agreement prior to your separation, do not worry. There are a number of ways you may still be able to prove you have an interest in the property in which you live.

Jointly owned property
If you and your partner own a property jointly, upon your separation you will need to consider what is to happen to the property, for example whether it should be sold. If you and your partner are not able to reach an agreement, you can ask the Court to decide.

There are 2 ways in which a property can be held - joint tenants and tenants in common.

If you own the property as joint tenants' then you each own the entire property. As such, upon the death either you or the co-owner, the deceased's share passes automatically to the surviving owner.

Tenants in common' means that each party owns a distinct share in the property. Upon the death of either you or the co-owner, that share would form part of the deceased's estate and would not automatically pass to the surviving owner.

We can assist you in finding out whether you hold the property as joint tenants or tenants in common and can provide you with advice about severing any joint tenancy if appropriate.
Property owned solely by one party

Things become more complicated if the property is owned solely by one party. It remains that party's property on separation unless you can establish an interest in the property.

In brief, there are 3 ways in which you can do so:

1. Where there has been an express declaration that you are to have an interest in the property - for example a clear conversation between you and the owner of the property;

2. Where an intention can be implied from particular circumstances - for example if you contributed towards the purchase price (providing it was not intended as a loan or gift). Alternatively if you can show there is a clear understanding or agreement that you have an interest in the property and that you have relied upon this to your detriment, for example you have sold a previous property or have invested money into renovating the property.

3. Where it can be shown that the owner has encouraged or allowed you to believe that you have an interest in the property and because of that you act to your detriment in reliance on this belief - for example you contributed towards renovation works or gave up a tenancy on a property. In these circumstances there does not need to be a common intention that the non-owner would have an interest in the property.

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