Cohabitees: Rights and Reasons

It doesn’t matter whether you are married or living with a partner, relation or friend, you may not know all about the person you are now living with and the decisions they have made, inadvertently or intentionally, on your behalf. When it comes to property ownership the law has a say.

So, just how many annoying habits did you discover about your partner after you started living together? It seems the answer for most people is about 90% of them and maybe one of them is an aversion to legal documents. Not something that’s obviously annoying but it could become so when you find out what your partner has overlooked.

Why is it important?

If you are not married then your security in a property all comes down to the purchase arrangements. Do you know if your property was purchased under a Joint Tenancy agreement or a Tenancy in Common? This is important! Don’t be fooled by the word “Tenancy” as within the law this really applies to all home purchases by two or more people and doesn’t mean you are renting. Partners have been known to be left with nothing on breakup of a relationship or alternatively expecting to walk away with the proceeds of the house only to find the law says it must be equally shared with your ex, despite them having contributed nothing.

Joint Tenancy

So, here’s the thing for people who are living together as cohabitees: the law dictates who owns what. Most properties with cohabitees are bought as a Joint Tenancy and here, no matter who has paid for the mortgage or home improvements or put down the initial capital, the Court will assume the parties involved own an equal share and there will be nothing you can do about this.

Tenancy in Common

Sometimes, however, cohabitees will purchase under a Tenancy in Common and here the Court will look for evidence of who owns what share. A Tenancy in Common is usually accompanied by a Declaration of Trust that sets out who owns what percentage of the property. As often with these situations, all is well until there is a parting of the ways. This may be a far better way for two people to own a property, if they do not want a 50/50 split of the equity if they separate or should you not want your share in the property to automatically revert to your partner or cohabitee on your death.

How can we help?

If you are not sure how you own your property or what interest you have in your property then please do get in touch. The lesson is to choose your solicitor carefully. There’s no substitute for an experienced solicitor who can explain the details and yes, pitfalls, concerned with cohabitation or property transactions more generally. A good solicitor should explain this all to you carefully and make sure you’ve made the right choice. Please contact one of our residential property team members to discuss your situation further.