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6th September 2012

This month we are taking a look at cohabitation. CohabitationWhether you are one of the lucky ones whose summer romance is surviving into autumn, or you have been together a while and are ready to take the plunge, living together can cause more than just emotional upsets.

Cohabitation is legally very different to marriage or civil partnership. While you might feel married and behave in the same way as a married couple, there is no legal concept of 'common law marriage'. Being married (or in a civil partnership) gives you and your partner legal rights, including rights to a share of each other's property (such as a pension or a house). Just living with someone (cohabiting) does not give you such rights.

Does cohabitation give me or my partner (cohabitee) any rights in the other's property?

This is a really complicated area of law. Just living together does not automatically give you any rights, but there are lots of cases where a share of a house has been awarded to a cohabitee.

Sometimes a cohabitee can be awarded rights in other property of their partner (such as a boat). He or she would need to show direct financial contribution (for example, paid money towards the upkeep of the boat) and/or that it was their partner’s intention that the property would be shared.

When might my cohabitee get a legal right to a share of my house?

There are four main situations where this might happen. Firstly, if your partner has contributed to the mortgage, either directly, or in some cases indirectly. Secondly, if he or she has paid for and/or made significant improvements to the house. Thirdly, if you act in a way that suggests that your partner has a share of the house, for example needing him or her to agree to a new mortgage on the property. Lastly, if you give your partner a share in your property. You can do this by gifting it to them, or they can buy it from you, or you can leave them property in your Will. A solicitor would be able to help you decide the best way to give your partner the share and make sure that you transfer the property legally.

How can I protect myself?

You can have a cohabitation agreement. This is a document signed by you and your partner which sets out the agreement between you regarding any property. It is best to have the cohabitation agreement written by a legal expert, usually a solicitor specialising in family law, in order to ensure that it contains everything you need. Ensuring you both have independent legal advice can help make sure the agreement won’t be treated as invalid.

We hope this ezine has been helpful. If you have any questions about cohabitation, or any other legal query you can contact Law Express on 08700 434 284.

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