Cohabitation & Your Rights

One of the biggest urban myths  is that a ‘common law spouse’ has rights similar to those who are married or in civil partnerships. This simply isn’t the case. Instead, strict principles of property and trust law apply, as developed by the courts. These can be complex and detailed, so we’ll only summarise the most important points here.

Jointly Owned Property and Your Rights

The law presumes that the joint owners hold the property in equal shares, unless there is strong evidence, such as a formally signed  declaration of trust, to the contrary. Otherwise, a joint owner claiming unequal shares needs to persuade the other owner, or ultimately a judge, that  other evidence exists (written, verbal, electronic or otherwise) from which an intention to share the property differently can be inferred. If that doesn’t work, a judge may impute such an intention to the joint owners based on his or her interpretation of the fairness in their case, with reference to the whole course of dealings between them regarding the property

Property In One Partner’s Sole Name

The registered proprietor of the property is the legal owner. However, the other partner (or indeed any person) may establish that he or she has a ‘beneficial interest’ in the property (i.e. a share in its value) if there is appropriate evidence available. Again, the clearest evidence is a deed of declaration of trust recording that the legal owner holds the property on trust (i.e. for the benefit of) both partners, or the other partner entirely.

In either case, it’s all highly technical, heavily dependent on the facts and, not surprisingly, very difficult to predict an outcome with any degree of certainty unless there is a written deed in existence. 

How Goughs Solicitors Can Support Cohabiting Persons

The best solution is to ensure that, either at the time a property is purchased or a financial investment is made in a home, or at any time after its acquisition, a clear declaration of trust is created as a minimum.

It’s also a good idea to consider a Cohabitation Agreement. You should certainly never invest money or effort into someone else’s property without taking specialist legal advice.

At Goughs we have the necessary experience and expertise to give you clear and reliable advice to ensure you understand your legal position and that, if appropriate, steps are taken to protect it.

Get In Touch

For further information or to arrange your free half-hour initial consultation please contact Ross Phillips on 01249 812086, email rossphillips@goughs.co.uk or complete our online enquiry form today.