Buying a property as an unmarried couple

Buying a property as an unmarried couple

If you’re considering buying a house with a partner, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is what will happen if you split up. However, if you’re not married, you won’t have the same legal rights. You should consider protecting yourself and your investment before you get the keys.

There are now around four million unmarried couples living together in England and Wales. This is due to many reasons; the need for large deposits means people are put off marrying until they’re more settled and there is an increase in divorced partners moving in with new families. If you’re currently looking at moving in with your partner, you should take independent legal advice to ensure you’re both covered.

What Are My Rights?

If you buy a house together, but you aren’t married, it can become complicated if you eventually split up. If the house was bought in joint names and you end up selling the property, you’ll both be entitled to 50% of the assets. However, this doesn’t take into account if either of you paid more of the mortgage or contributed a bigger percentage of the deposit. With more people needing parental help to get a foot on the property ladder, it’s important that you consider the financial consequences of a break-up.

How Can I Protect Myself?

There are two documents that you should consider if you’re buying a house with a partner. A Declaration of Trust sets out how the property would be divided if you separate. It can also include details of how one of the parties might buy the other one’s share. If you buy with a partner, you’ll be classified as either ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common’. As ‘joint tenants’, you’ll each receive an equal share, whereas with ‘tenants in common’, you’ll receive a percentage based on mortgage and deposit contributions.

If you need a document that covers other joint assets and responsibilities, you need a Cohabitation Agreement. This doesn’t just set out plans for the house but can also cover bank accounts, children, pension funds and pets. Basically, anything that you have responsibility for together and how this will be shared in a separation is covered.

If you’re not married, you should also think about drawing up wills, as the surviving partner won’t have the same rights as with married couples. In the event of one of you dying without a will, your share of the property might not be distributed as you wish. Unlike a husband and wife, it wouldn’t automatically transfer to the remaining partner.

It might seem like an unnecessary expense to consult a lawyer when you’re in the middle of a fresh romance. However, drawing up these documents could save you money and countless legal arguments if you, unfortunately, do separate.

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