Unmarried Couple Property Rights With Property Division

Caragh Bailey
08/04/2021
115
6 min read

Are you entitled to half the house if not married?

Most people have heard the term common law marriage, but what does it mean?

Technically, in order to have a 'common law marriage' you would need to actually be married under the common law of the country in which you reside at the time of meeting their common law requirements for marriage. However, common usage of the term in the UK is understood to mean that cohabiting partners have the same property rights as legally married couples or civil partners, after just 6 months of sharing a home.

This misconception leaves many unmarried couples blissfully unaware that their interests are incredibly vulnerable to financial loss and bitter disputes following the breakdown of a relationship. Read on to find out how to protect your unmarried couple property rights.

Do you have a dispute regarding property rights for unmarried couples?

The process for settling a property dispute can be long and costly. If you don't have a legal agreement setting out your beneficial share in the property then get in contact with us and see how we can help.

We have a panel of select solicitors who can assist with:
  • Working out your beneficial interest
  • Pre-action negotiations
  • Application to court
  • Pre-liminary hearing
  • Mediation
  • Court appearance

We have on hand counsel to support your claim and offer guidance along the way.

Qualified Solicitors | Competitive Quotes | Straight Talking Legal Support


Do unmarried partners have any rights?

If your name is on the title deed, you own part of the property. If there is another deed which indicates that you own a share of the beneficial interest in the property, then you are entitled to live in it and to that share of any income from the property.

Without these deeds, you have very little rights over your partner's property, regardless of how long you've lived there or paid toward the mortgage, unless you can prove that there was some agreement between yourself and your partner, that any financial contributions you made were agreed to be an investment in the beneficial interest, not rent.

How do you split assets when not married?

Unmarried rights with regards to property division depend on your circumstances and any legal agreements you have made. There are several options below, according to different circumstances.

Joint Owners
Joint owners means both of your names appear on the title deed. Your unmarried couple property rights of ownership and beneficial interest will depend on whether you are joint tenants or tenants in common:

  • Joint tenants own the whole house together: legally they share 100%. Their beneficial interest is split 50:50
  • Tenants in common can own an unequal percentage in the property. Anything from 0:100, 1:99 to 50:50.

If you own your property as joint tenants you will need to execute a Severance of Joint Tenancy before you can have unequal shares in the property.


Using a Deed of Trust you define your unequal shares of the beneficial interest, as well as your rights over income from the property and responsibilities over costs such as mortgage payments and works. A Floating Deed of Trust, allows your share of the beneficial interest to increase or decrease in proportion to the contributions you make.

If one of you wants to assign all of the beneficial interest to the other, they will need a Declaration of No Interest.




Sole Owner
If one of you owns the property and the other does not, you can:

    1
    Keep full legal ownership and 100% of the beneficial interest
If you don't want your cohabiting partner to gain rights over your property through their contributions to the household you need a Declaration of No Interest. This indicates that they may make contributions toward the property but they still have no legal rights over it. If you break up, you can make them leave and they cannot claim any income from the house.


    2
    Transfer all or part of your legal ownership to your spouse
You will need a Transfer of Equity. You would also need a Deed of Trust to reflect your shares of the beneficial interest. Or, if you're transferring the property in full, you will need a Declaration of No Interest.


    3
    Keep full legal ownership, but give your partner rights to live in the property and a share in any rental income, sale profits and mortgage responsibilities
You can execute a Deed of Assignment to give your partner a portion of beneficial ownership.


Moving in Together
If you are moving into your partner's house and expect your contributions towards mortgage, repairs etc to be returned if your relationship breaks down, you should consider executing a Floating Deed of Trust. You can buy a consideration, they can gift you a consideration, or you can begin with 0% beneficial interest which increases with each contribution you make, as agreed with your partner. This would mean that if you split up, any beneficial interest % that you had accumulated would be paid to you as a percentage of sale profit or rental income.


Mortgage requirements
Mortgage lenders usually require any party living at the property over the age of 16, or legal owner not on the mortgage, to sign an Occupier Waiver form to confirm they waive any legal right to the property. This is to avoid disputes if they have to repossess the property. If you are signing an occupier waiver you must have Independent Legal Advice. We have a panel of select solicitors who can provide this service.


Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a dispute regarding property rights for unmarried couples?

The process for settling a property dispute can be long and costly. If you don't have a legal agreement setting out your beneficial share in the property then get in contact with us and see how we can help.

We have a panel of select solicitors who can assist with:
  • Working out your beneficial interest
  • Pre-action negotiations
  • Application to court
  • Pre-liminary hearing
  • Mediation
  • Court appearance

We have on hand counsel to support your claim and offer guidance along the way.

Qualified Solicitors | Competitive Quotes | Straight Talking Legal Support


 
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