What Rights Do Unmarried Same Sex Couples Have When Buying A House?
Posted on 11th May 2020
Property Law Solicitors know that it is a common misconception that if you have cohabited for a long enough period then you become common law spouses, therefore acquiring the same rights as a married couple. A further misconception is that same-sex couples have fewer rights if they were to separate than opposite-sex couples.
Both of these schools of thought are incorrect.
The truth is that same-sex and opposite-sex couples who are married or in a civil partnership will acquire more legal protection when it comes to relationship break down than those who chose to cohabitate.
The Office for National Statistics found that the proportion of families containing a cohabiting couples increased from 15.3% to 18.4% in the year 2019 thus reflecting the trend seen in the declining proportion of the population who are married and an increasing trend in the proportion of those who are cohabiting.
In light of the increase of those cohabitating, it had our Family Law Solicitors in Lancaster considering how unmarried couples could protect themselves and avoid costly legal disputes if the relationship were to break down.
Lets assume you have found the person whom you have decided to buy a house with and you make a decision to purchase in your joint names, you would have two options for ownership be that either tenants in common or joint tenants.
If you make the decision to own the property as joint tenants (or beneficial joint tenants) then the property will be considered to belong to the both of you jointly. This means that as the owners you both must act together as a single owner. This method of ownership means that the owners do not own a specific share in the property, it also means that you cannot give away a share of the property in a will so if either of the couple were to die then their interest in the property passes automatically to the other owner. For some this is to be avoided, for example, if you have a child with someone other than the person you are purchasing a property with, you may wish that your share of the property be left to your child should you pass away rather than the person you cohabitate with.
If this is a concern for you then it is suggested that you own the property as tenants in common. Owning the property in this manner would mean that you own the property jointly, but each owner also owns a specific share of its value. This means that as an owner you can give away, sell or mortgage your own share and if one owner should die then their share of the property would pass to the beneficiary in your will. This can be useful for unmarried couples investing unequal amounts of capital in the property, for example, if one person is going to place down a £30,000 deposit and the other is putting down £5,000. As well as this protection, your Solicitor will also recommend that a declaration of trust in drawn up which sets out the percentage of the property each party will own.
So, when your property conveyancing solicitor asks how you wish to hold a property; joint tenants or tenants in common, you should think carefully about the impacts of any such decision.
As well as this decision, there are other options available to protect your assets if you are not married or in a civil partnership. Our Family Law team can help you discuss a cohabitation agreement as well as discussing what will happen in the event of a relationship breakdown you can also discuss who will contribute to the running costs of the property. Such an agreement will also allow couples to think about what they want to happen if one of them dies and whether they would want the other to inherit or if you need to make a Will to give effect to what you would want to happen.
Conversations about separation and death are not easy but the assistance from a Solicitor can mean that issues are dealt with at the outset with both parties understanding exactly what would happen should they separate at a later date. This can also help Couples to decide themselves what would be fair and minimise stress assisting in the prevention of arguments spanning both property and family law after any break down.
Should you wish to discuss these matters further contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01995 602 129 and we can assist by discussing your options.
MG Legal - Your Local Solicitors
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