Unmarried Couples: Your Home
What Will Happen To Your Home?
If you are an unmarried couple and you own a home what happens to your home will depend on the ownership. The home can be owned in one of three different ways: one of you may own the home in your own name, or you may own it in joint names either as joint tenants or tenants in common.
Homes Owned In One Person’s Name
If only one of you is named as the owner, there is a presumption that that person owns the property. The non-owner’s ability to make a claim on the property relies on you being able to prove that either the owner agreed to share the property with the non-owner (ideally in writing) or that the non-owner contributed to the purchase of the home. For example if the non-owner paid into the mortgage account, paid a share or all of the deposit or paid substantial household bills on the understanding the non-owner would have a share in the home, the non-owner may have a claim.
If the owner dies the home will go to whoever they named in their will and if they have not named anyone, it will go to their nearest blood relative. The non-owner may be able to bring a claim under the Inheritance Act if they act swiftly.
If you are not a joint owner, but believe that you may be entitled to claim an interest in the property, we would recommend that you seek early advice from a solicitor on how to ensure that the other party does not sell or mortgage the property before your claim is dealt with; and how to make your claim and the evidence which will be needed.
Homes Owned In Joint Names – Joint Tenancy
If you own your home together under a joint tenancy you are deemed to own the home equally and if you split up a 50:50 share is assumed unless you specified otherwise when drawing up the agreement. Under joint tenancy, the home can only be sold if both of you agree and you are both jointly liable for the mortgage meaning that if one of you doesn’t pay, the other must meet all of the payment.
If one of you dies their share will pass to the other owner and cannot be left to anyone else in a will.
Homes Owned In Joint Names - Tenancy In Common
If you split up, you are deemed to own your home in the shares you originally put in. If you were not specific about this at the time of purchase a 50:50 split is presumed. If you consider this to be unfair, you can take the issue to court. You will need to demonstrate that you have made a greater contribution which justifies a departure from 50:50.
As with homes owned under joint tenancy, you can only sell the house if both of you agree to it. However, unlike joint tenancy, if one of you dies, their share goes to whoever is named in their will or in accordance with the rules of intestacy if there is no will made. A claim may be brought under the Inheritance Act.
If you are a joint owner, we recommend you seek early legal advice on:
- Ensuring that your share of the property will pass to your chosen beneficiary if you die;
- Receiving credit for any mortgage payments made by you after separation;
- Seeking an ‘Occupation Rent’ from the party remaining in occupation (where you are the party who has left); and
- Seeking an order for sale, where for example, there are or will be problems in meeting the mortgage payments after the separation, or one party does not agree to a sale, or
- Seeking a lump sum.
Right To Occupy The Home
Where you are concerned that you have been or might be forced out of the home by the other party, or where you wish the other party to leave, you should seek advice as soon as possible.
If You Rent Your Home
If you and your partner rent a home together and your name is not on the tenancy agreement, you are in a vulnerable position should you separate.
Your partner as the named tenant has the right to ask you to leave (with reasonable notice) unless you have children, in which case the court has the power to order a transfer of the tenancy to a parent to keep the children in the environment they are used to.
If you have a joint tenancy agreement and you separate, the other tenant remains entitled to occupy the home, though if one of the tenants moves out, you are both jointly liable for the full amount until the balance is clear.
Unmarried Rights to Your Home If You Have Children
If you have children, the court can make various orders under the Children’s Act 1989 to ensure the children are housed until they are 18 years of age. In the case of home owners this can mean a transfer of the tenancy to the care giving parent (the one who will remain living with the children). This does not mean you then own the property outright, but that you have the right to live there until the children are 18.
Similarly, in the case of rental properties, the court can order that the tenancy is transferred to the care giving parent in order to keep a roof over the children’s heads.
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