Let’s live together

Jennifer peebles portrait.

Jennifer Peebles


Phone 01264 325823

Email jpeebles@bsandi.co.uk

Moving in with a partner is a relationship milestone. While it is an exciting time in two people’s lives, rushing in without thinking through the practicalities - how bills will be split, how the property will be owned, for example – could cause problems further down the line.

It’s wise to understand what cohabitation means, legally. It is not the same as marriage or civil partnership. Living together on a less formal basis means there are fewer legal rights in play. One of the harsh realisations that hits when two people who having been living together separate, is that a cohabitee is not automatically entitled to a share of the things owned by their former partner. That may be different to someone who had married or was in a civil partnership. Living as ‘common law husband and wife’ doesn’t by itself entitle a cohabitee to a share of certain assets or to a lump sum or maintenance payments after the breakdown of their relationship.

The home shared by cohabitees is usually at the heart of disputes around entitlements. If the property was put in joint names, then each cohabitee will continue to own their share and could agree to buy their former partner out or sell them their share. Alternatively, the property could be sold, with each party taking the value of their share from the sale price.

If the property was not in joint names, which is often the case where one person moves into the other’s home, that can be more problematic. The person whose name is on the property deeds retains ownership throughout, while the other will usually have been paying towards its running and upkeep and also towards day-to-day living expenses. If the relationship breaks down, the ‘non-owner’ could be forced to walk away from a home with nothing to show for the years of having lived there. However, in some cases, we are able to help establish a legal interest in the property by showing that he or she had been promised a share or had contributed to the purchase price or to renovations, for example.

That being said, it is far better to avoid having to argue those points at all and key to that is getting things straight at the outset. If you and your partner are thinking about moving in together, it’s sensible to get legal advice and have a solicitor prepare a cohabitation agreement. These can be extremely useful because they set out exactly what you and your partner have agreed in respect of your relationship and what should happen if you split up. We appreciate that while they may not be the most romantic of gestures (they’re a bit like a pre-nuptial agreement), they can be a really sound investment.

For advice about cohabitation and how to get the right legal protections in place, contact us on family@bsandi.co.uk or 01264 353411.

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