How to… Set up home as a cohabitee


In 2012, 5.9million people in the UK were cohabiting and for the first time in 2011 married people were in the minority.

Conveyancing Process

Therefore when you enter into a cohabiting relationship it is important to know your rights in regards to your family home.

What is a cohabitee?

Couples who live together but are not married are referred to as cohabitees in law. These couples can be homosexual (of the same sex) or a heterosexual couple (of the opposite sex).

When living in a rented property

If you are renting together, your tenancy agreement should refer to you both as 'joint tenants'. This gives you an equal right to stay in the property, whereas if you are not on the tenancy agreement then you can be asked to leave.

If one of you is currently renting a property and your partner wants to move in, you can turn an existing tenancy into a joint tenancy. Discuss this with the landlord or social housing landlord, and take any legal advice if you need to.

When buying a home together

Make sure you and your partner own the property jointly, as this gives you equal rights to stay in the home.

You can either buy a house as a beneficial joint tenancy, which means that you both act as a single owner and don't own specific shares in the property. This also means if you die you cannot give your share away in a will, instead it automatically passes to your partner.

Alternatively, you can own the house as a tenancy in common, so although the property belongs to you jointly you both own a specific share of its value. So you can give away, sell or mortgage your share, and even pass it to someone else in your will.

When only one of you owns the property

If your partner is the sole owner of the house, you may have no right to stay in the house. An exception can be made if you have children. The court can order that you continue to live there, or transfer the property into your name, or both. But they will only do this if it is in the best interests of the children.

If you have no children and your partner is the sole owner you may be able to show you have a beneficial interest in the property. The court will consider any contributions that you have made and what both your intentions were when you purchased the property.

Do I need a solicitor?

When buying a home, a solicitor can take you through the legal process - this is known as conveyancing. If you are renting, a solicitor can give you advice on how to change a sole tenancy into a joint tenancy and help you understand the implications of making such a move.

A solicitor can also help you write a cohabitation agreement, which shows how you and your partner will manage your day-to-day finances, how you deal with joint bank accounts, what happens to assets purchased together and how you will support any children you have.

If there are children involved, a solicitor can guide you through the process of gaining parental responsibility or help you to draft a parental responsibility agreement with the mother of the child. Where children are involved stability is within their best interests and your solicitor will appreciate this.

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