Common issues for cohabiting couples

Jun 1st, 2021

Natalie Wiles, Chartered Legal Executive – Associate

Cohabiting Couples are now the fastest growing household in the UK, but despite this, the law in England and Wales does not currently provide protection for unmarried couples. As a result, many couples are unaware of the potential consequences of moving into or purchasing a property together before they take the next step forward in their relationship. Here are some examples of the potential issues that could arise when cohabiting:

  • If the property is owned in one person's sole name this does not prevent the other person from being able to gain a financial interest in the property. This can result in expensive legal arguments if you separate.
  • If the house is owned in joint names, then it is presumed that the shares are equal. If one person has put significantly more money into the property, then this could mean that they potentially lose out if the relationship ends in the future.
  • There are often practical issues which follows separation. What should happen to the property? Who should live there? Who should be responsible for the bill payments or mortgage payments?
  • What if one partner wants to sell the house but the other does not? If the house is in joint names, then agreement of both owners is required to sell the house. The Court can make orders for sale but of course this is potentially an expensive and stressful procedure.
  • There is no such thing as common law marriage! Living together for a long period of time does not mean that you each have the same rights as a married couple. A lot of people unfortunately believe that this is the case.

The best thing to do is think about these issues before you move in together or purchase a property together. It is possible to enter a cohabitation agreement to set out your intentions at the outset and to avoid any potential issues.

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Natalie Wiles

Chartered Legal Executive – Associate

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