Can My Girlfriend Claim Half My House?

5 min read
Blue and Pink Couple's Piggy Banks. Parachute Law Solicitors's guide on Can My Girlfriend Claim Half My House?

Can a partner take half if not married?

Unmarried couple's property rights are not the same as married couples and civil partners. 'Common law marriage' is the widespread misconception that living with your spouse for more than 6 months grants you the same rights over property as a legal marriage or civil partnership. Common law is the body of unwritten laws which are determined by judges during individual cases, also known as case law.

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. Sadly, due to this urban myth, many cohabiting couples wrongly believe their rights to be protected, whilst leaving themselves vulnerable to financial loss and bitter disputes following the breakdown of a relationship. Read on to learn your rights and how to protect them.

If you're not married, you are right in wondering 'can my girlfriend claim half my house?'. An ex partner can still have a right to your property, whether that's through a legally binding agreement between you, or them having a beneficial interest from financially contributing towards things such as mortgage, renovations or deposit to buy the property. For this reason, it is important you express your intentions regarding the property in writing, from the beginning.

Cohabitation Agreement
Floating Deed of Trust
Cohabitation Agreement
This is a more comprehensive agreement and it can be tailored to cover more than just your property. It allows you to decide each party's financial responsibility towards the property, as well as how to split it or and any other assets you share (i.e. cars or furniture).

While a deed can be drafted even if you don't live together inside the property, a cohabitation agreement is geared towards you moving in together. It helps settle what will happen in the event of a break up and it can also apply to property that you rent together.
Floating Deed of Trust
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 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.

Does my partner have any rights to my property?

If only one of the unmarried couple is the sole legal owner of the property they can transfer all or part ownership to their spouse using a Transfer of Equity. Currently, Parachute Law acts for parties transferring 100% of their equity. Contact us and we'll recommend an approved law firm who will undertake a transferral of partial equity.

Alternatively, if you want to remain sole legal owner, but also want to give the other person rights to live in the property and/or rights to capital gains or rental income, you can execute a Deed of Assignment. However, if you're asking yourself 'Can my girlfriend claim half my house?', chances are you're more interested in making sure that you're protected in case of a relationship breakdown. There are certain precautions you can take.

How do I protect my assets from my girlfriend?

Declaration of no Interest
Occupier Waiver Form
Declaration of No Interest
If you own your home and do not want your cohabiting partner to gain rights over your property through their contributions to the household (mortgage contributions, works and maintenance etc.) you should have them sign a Declaration of No Interest.

This indicates that they may make contributions toward the property but they still have no legal rights over it, living there at your discretion only.
Occupier Waiver Form
Any party living at the property or legal owner not on the mortgage over the age of 16 will most likely need to sign an Occupier Waiver form to confirm they waive any legal right to the property.

Lenders require this to avoid disputes when they repossess the property. We provide Independent Legal Advice for this waiver.
Declaration of No Interest
Occupier Waiver Form

When is a partner entitled to half my house?

    Joint Owners
If both of you own the house together 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 house equally (50/50), whereas tenants in common can own an unequal percentage in the property. If you own your property as joint tenants you will need to execute a Severance of Joint Tenancy before you can change your ownership split.

Then, you can execute a Deed of Trust to define your shares of the beneficial interest, as well as your rights, responsibilities and what will happen if you separate or sell The Property. You could opt for a Floating Deed of Trust, whereby your share of the beneficial interest changes in proportion to the contributions you make.

    Sole Owner
If you're the sole legal owner, but the property has been bought with the intention that you and your partner would share the beneficial interest, they could make a claim for their share. In most cases, the ex partner has contributed towards the mortgage repayments. All of this creates a constructive trust, which allows them to claim they have a beneficial interest in the property.

Constructive trusts usually come up between cohabiting partners and if the relationship break downs, this causes a lengthy and complicated legal battle. If your ex partner can prove that the original intention was for you to share the beneficial interest and that they've made the mortgage repayments, they can be entitled to half your property.

Couple arguing over a property dispute

Are you facing a property dispute?

Book a free 10 minute chat with a trained member of our property dispute team to see how we can help you with:
  • Working out your beneficial interest
  • Negotiating in & out of court
  • Proposing & reviewing settlement agreement
  • Applications to court including Declaratory Orders, Regulatory Orders, Occupational Rent

Frequently Asked Questions

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