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Come and live with me at my house Brenda but we’re not getting married

by Ridley&Hall in Gareth Jones, Trusts, Unmarried couples, Wills posted January 16, 2024.
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Marriage is not everyone’s cup of tea

In November last year, I wrote about the rights ‘Brenda’ may have in circumstances where she believes she has been promised a legal interest or right in property.

Here, Brenda  happily moves in with the love of her life who owns the home.  They  do not want to get married.  This is quite common. As this article and survey indicate,  50% of people who live together do not plan to get married. A third do not believe in marriage.

End of Relationship

Brenda’s relationship has now ended.  She believes she can instruct a divorce lawyer to make a claim on the house. But the divorce lawyer says that as they were not married,  and her name was not on the deeds, there is a limit to what Brenda can do. The article mentioned above also confirms  80% of family justice professionals surveyed reported that “unmarried couples were surprised by their lack of legal rights.”

What could Brenda possibly do?

Brenda’s rights? A Claim under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996

Brenda’s partner on paper is the only one with any interest in the property. But a court could find there was an agreement between Brenda and the legal owner that Brenda has a financial interest in the property. If the court did so, the court will find that Brenda has a financial interest in the property, as long as Brenda, in view of the agreement, had made payment(s) toward things related to the property. That might in some circumstances include utility bills.

Alternatively, if there was no such obvious agreement between Brenda and her partner, the court can infer that Brenda and her partner had an agreement to share the financial interest.  That is likely to require Brenda to have at least made payment toward the purchase price and/or mortgage but it is a little more complicated than that.

Changes to the Law

The law may soon change to further protect the rights of people like Brenda who live together with a home owner but are not married.  But that is likely to take some time.

As I continually say, prevention is better than cure in circumstances where someone else owns a property in which you live.  Thought should be given at the outset to how to establish an interest in the property.  There is a risk otherwise, you like Brenda could be setting yourself up for a fall.  Whether you seek advice at that stage or in the event of a break up, Ridley and Hall solicitors can help.

How can Ridley & Hall’s family solicitors and litigation lawyers help

At Ridley & Hall, we have a breadth of expertise in this area and are able to meet the needs of clients involved in disputes outlined in this article.  Our family team will happily assist and advise following a break down of relationship. Where the relationship is not an intimate one, and, for example involves a parent living with a child, we in the litigation team will ensure you achieve the best possible outcome.

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Gareth Jones – Solicitor





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