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What are your property rights when cohabiting?

Unmarried couples often believe that if they have been living together for a long period of time, they automatically gain particular rights, for example making a claim to the family home.  This is a very dangerous assumption and can leave people vulnerable. 

cohabitees

Rachel Read-Hill

Although it is a very complex area of law, as cohabitees, if you live in a house owned solely by your partner, upon separation you only have a claim to the house if you can show that you made a financial contribution to it and that there was a common intention to share ownership.  Your financial contribution could be payments towards the mortgage, renovations or even work you have done yourself to the property. In the event of any dispute, you need to be able to evidence the contributions, and, if it is not possible to agree, the person making the claim, will have to apply to court.

Where property is owned jointly, how it is to be dealt with upon separation will depend on how you own it – tenants in common or joint tenants– and whether there have been any agreements between you.

If you are married, the situation is different in that a court has wide-ranging powers allowing it to make orders in respect of any property owned by either spouse.  Read our page ‘Who gets the house in a divorce?’

If you are embarking upon a new relationship in which you are living together, it is important to discuss and agree your intentions relating to ownership of the property.  Any agreement can be recorded in a trust deed or cohabitation agreement to ensure that it is legally binding, as far as possible.

If you would like advice on trust deeds or cohabitation agreements, or you have separated and are unclear on what your rights are, contact our family law experts now.  We will make an appointment to discuss your concerns and help you find the best way forward.

Author: Rachel Read-Hill, family law solicitor

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