Many cohabitees discuss who will own the house or property they are moving into. However, it’s much less common for people to then make sure what they have agreed on is legally enforceable.
Ownership of a property is determined, for the most part, by whose name appears on the property’s title register. So, whether one partner is moving into a house which belongs to the other or you are both buying a new property together; if you intend to share ownership you should ensure both your names are on the property’s title register.
If the relationship breaks down and your name is not on the property, it may be difficult to hold your partner to what was agreed upon. You will not have any clear legal rights in the property, meaning you may not be entitled to any sale proceeds if the house is sold, and you may have no right to continue living there if your partner asks you to leave.
However, there are some exceptions to this. You may have some rights in the property in situations where:
- You made contributions to the deposit or ongoing mortgage payments
- You made some other kind of financial commitment (such as paying for renovation work) because it was agreed you would own a share of the house
Unfortunately, establishing these rights when your name is not on the property can involve costly legal action.
If you agree to joint ownership, it doesn’t necessarily mean you both have to own the property equally. If you choose to own a property jointly as ‘tenants in common’, you can agree to hold unequal shares.