Posted by Patrick Hart, Partner
How the rising property market could affect cohabitee separation?
Average house prices across the UK have rocketed by 11.7 per cent this year, according to the latest data from the Office of National Statistics.
This boom in the property market has led an ever greater number of unmarried couples to combine their savings in order to take their first step on the property ladder.
But this leaves many couples and families in a difficult position when a relationship breaks down, with each side often discovering they have little, or no, legal or financial protection.
In response to this ever-growing trend Resolution chair, Jo Edwards, has sought to address some of the problems associated with cohabitee separations.
She said that many cohabitees just don’t have a clue where they stand when it comes to separation, with many assuming they have rights where none exist.
“Cohabiting couples don’t have the same legal protection as married couples, no matter how long you’ve been together,” said Mrs Edwards “This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the rights of unmarried couples that live together – people think they have rights that in fact don’t exist in current law.”
Under English law, married couples or those in a civil partnership have an established legal framework when it comes to matrimonial property rights, which are designed to ensure that each person has some right to a share in the property.
But the same can’t be said for cohabitees, even those in an extremely long relationship.
When an unmarried couple living together separate and the property is in one person’s name, the next step is to work out whether the other person has an interest in the property – for instance, by paying towards the mortgage, helping with repairs or even having contributed to the deposit.
If these contributions are not entrenched in a form of written agreement, then the partner who is not named on the title deed may find themselves fighting to establish the extent of their share or the named person might find themselves facing financial difficulty.
In response to these fears, Resolution is encouraging cohabitees to create a Declaration of Trust agreement, which outlines each person’s responsibilities and recommends that cohabitees go one step further and consider having a will drawn up to ensure each person’s estate goes to the right person should one partner die.
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