10 November 2019
House of cards- Protect your share of property
It’s hugely exciting when you have your partner or a friend moving into your home for the first time or if you’re buying your first house together. But before you crack open the bubbly, it’s imperative to get a legal agreement in place to protect your share of the property. otherwise the shaky foundation of any verbal agreement that was made about your home, could come crashing down like a house of cards if there’s a dispute over ownership.
There is a growing number of unmarried couples and friends in England and Wales, who are deciding to purchase a property together. Very often, there is no legal agreement in place in relation to the proportions in which the property is to be held or relating to what would happen in the case of the couple separating. This can cause lengthy and protracted disputes later down the line, with the Court needing to intervene in many cases to decide what should happen to the property, which could add to the cost.
In some cases, one partner will move into a property which is already owned by the other. Again, there is unlikely to be a formal agreement in place which documents the parties’ intentions in relation to contributions towards household expenses and mortgage repayments. If the couple split later, the partner that is not a legal owner of the property, may assert that they have acquired a ‘beneficial interest’ in the property. This interest can be acquired with little formality, and without any written agreement. It can be acquired by virtue of their financial contributions.
Avoid potential claims
This may come as a surprise to the partner who believes themselves to be the sole owner of the property, legal or otherwise. The assumption is that they may ask the other to move out of ‘their’ property, and that will be the end of the matter. The potential claim may come out of the woodwork many years down the line, which can be hugely stressful
Avoid costly disputes
It is worth obtaining legal advice at an early stage and formalising the agreement between you and anyone you intend to own property with before a dispute arises.
To help avoid costly disputes, there are a variety of options that can be set up by a property lawyer.
- Deeds of waiver - these documents can record your agreement that, regardless of payments that the other person makes or works they undertake; they are not to acquire an interest in your property.
- Cohabitation agreements - these are more comprehensive documents, which can detail the intentions in relation to property solely owned by one partner. It can also deal with other issues in relation to cohabitation.
- Declarations of trust - in the case of a property that is jointly owned, this will document the respective shares that each will hold and it can also detail what will happen in the case of a split or any other disagreement between the parties.