Unmarried Couples Buying Property Together!

by Mark Johnston

                      Unmarried Couples Buying Property Together!

With many buyers now needing high deposits in order to obtain a mortgage, it seems then that more and more people are choosing to live together and therefore by property together with out getting married.

According to official statistics there are more than 4 million couples living together in England and Wales presently.

Probably the last thing on any couples minds when they are planning to buy a home together is how they will divide things if they do split up!

However, many lawyers are now warning that if they do not create some sort of a plan, one partner may find themselves seriously out of pocket.

Legal experts feel that most unmarried couples are unaware that they are stepping in to a potential legal minefield if they do but a property together with out protecting themselves.

Marilyn Stowe, a senior partner at Stowe family law firm, states “when people start living together they are usually very ignorant of their rights in law”.

Many couples wrongly believe that they will automatically qualify for some protection under law if their relationship breaks down.

Despite many misconceptions, there is no such thing as a ‘common law’ wife or husband in English law and therefore unmarried couples have no rights to their partner’s property if they do split up.

So basically what is his is his, what is hers is hers and what is jointly owned needs to be divided.

Therefore if a property is bought in joint names it should be split accordingly and in the case of a split either party can force a sale of the property to realise their share. However, if a property is in the sole name of one party it remains that person’s property even if bills etc have been shared.

In light of this it is now become increasingly common for unmarried couples to protect their assets, according to Barry Glazier, partner at law firm Lester Aldridge.

There are 2 main documents that unmarried couples can consider using: a declaration of trust or a cohabitation agreement.

A declaration of trust only covers property and how it will be divided should the couple split; they can be joint tenants meaning everything is equal or tenants in common which means they own different percentages of the property.

A cohabitation agreement is far more extensive than the declaration and as well as property this can also include anything from joint bank accounts, children pensions, furniture and pets.

It is also worth couples bearing in mind how they intend to deal with the mortgage, especially if it is a joint mortgage as both parties are held responsible for the payments regardless of the ins and outs of the situation.

This could potentially mean that one partner could be landed with the full bill if they other does a runner.

In conclusion getting everything set out in advance can seem very unromantic but it can avoid a lot of heartache, bitterness and legal expense should the relationship break down.

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