Unmarried Couple Property Rights with Property Division

Caragh Bailey
5 min read
Unmarried Couple Property Rights from Parachute Law

Are you entitled to half the house 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.

Do unmarried partners have any rights?

If you are in an unmarried couple, you are not afforded any particular rights regarding property ownership, beyond what it says on the title deed. However, you may be able to claim a share of the property's beneficial interest in certain circumstances.

How do you split assets when not married?

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 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.

Moving in Together
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 executing 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.

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.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions
If you unmarried you have no legal ownership over your partner's property unless you are on the title deed. If you own the property as joint tenants you can make a claim for half of the property, If you own the property as tenants in common you can make a claim for the share of the property that you own.
Make sure, when renting a property, that you are both listed on the tenancy agreement. If you are moving in with your partner, make sure you are added to the tenancy agreement. Your landlord will have to agree to any changes in the tenancy agreement.

If you are not listed on the tenancy agreement and your relationship breaks down, you can be forced to leave the property, regardless of how long you have lived there and what you have contributed towards rent.
It means an interest in the economic benefit of property - the benefit is the right to live in the property and right of income from it such as rent or capital gain. Equitable interest has the same meaning as beneficial interest, or beneficial ownership.

Do you have a dispute regarding property rights for unmarried couples?

The process for settling a property dispute can be long and costly. If you don't have a legal agreement setting out your beneficial share in the property then get in contact with us and see how we can help.

We can assist with:
  • Working out your beneficial interest
  • Pre-action negotiations
  • Application to court
  • Pre-liminary hearing
  • Mediation
  • Court appearance

We have on hand counsel to support your claim and offer guidance along the way.

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If you're facing a dispute regarding property rights for unmarried couples, we can help.

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