What Are My Rights If My Name Is Not On The Mortgage And My Partner And I Are Not Married?
Unmarried couples are not afforded the same legal rights as married couples or civil partners. If an unmarried couple split up, they are generally not obliged to divide their assets as they would be if they needed to go through the divorce or dissolution process. Accordingly, if the home shared by the couple is legally owned by just one of them, the non-owning partner can be extremely concerned about their living arrangements in the event of a breakup. A regular question asked of our family law experts is, ‘What are my rights if my name is not on the mortgage and my partner and I are not married?’
Here, our family law solicitors explain the general position regarding the rights of an unmarried individual living in a house owned by their partner. It is important to note, however, that the precise position will depend on your individual circumstances. If you require specific advice on your rights, our solicitors would be delighted to assist.
“Nothing could be improved with the service. Extremely satisfied.”
What Are My Rights If My Name Is On The Title Deeds But Not The Mortgage And My Partner And I Are Not Married?
Title deeds denote the registered owner of a property. A mortgage deed, on the other hand, is a legally binding contract between an individual and their mortgage lender detailing the terms on which the mortgage monies were lent.
An individual can be named on the mortgage deeds but not the title deeds, and vice versa. The first situation often arises for affordability reasons. If, for example, parents wish to help their adult child get on the property ladder, they may take out a joint mortgage with their child to boost their borrowing capacity. The parents are named on the mortgage deeds, but the child is registered as the legal owner of the property.
Conversely, an individual can be named on the title deeds without being on the mortgage. In these cases, that individual has ownership rights to the property, but is not liable to make mortgage repayments. Of course, if the person responsible for paying the mortgage defaults, the mortgage company may repossess the property.
Often, therefore, the question our clients want us to answer is not ‘What are my rights if my name is not on the mortgage and my partner and I are not married?’ but, rather, ‘What are my rights if my name is not on the title deeds and my partner and I are not married?’
What Are My Rights If My Name Is Not On The Title Deeds And My Partner And I Are Not Married?
Unfortunately, if you are unmarried and do not own the home you share with your partner, your rights to the property in the event of a breakup are limited. Unlike married couples or civil partners, unmarried couples do not benefit from the ‘home rights’ conferred by the Matrimonial Homes legislation. Home rights allow a non-owning partner to remain in the matrimonial home until their divorce or dissolution is settled, at which point satisfactory living arrangements should have been made for both partners. Unmarried couples must instead rely on the provisions of a little-known statute called the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act, more commonly known as ‘TOLATA’.
TOLATA can be invoked by anyone with a beneficial interest in a property, including the non-owning partner in an unmarried couple. The Court’s jurisdiction under TOLATA is subjective as opposed to discretionary. In real terms, this means that the Judge must base their decision on what they believe the couple’s intentions were, as opposed to what might be considered fair. For example, if the non-owning partner had paid for a significant extension to the property, the Judge may infer that the couple intended it to be jointly owned. It would, after all, be unusual for an individual to contribute such a considerable sum of money to a property over which they had no rights.
How We Can Help
More and more couples are choosing to live together before they marry or enter into a civil partnership, with many deciding against a formal union. If you live with your partner but do not legally own the property, it can help to have a chat with experienced family law solicitors, like ours, to establish your rights and put your mind at ease about your future should your relationship break down. Our family law solicitors will take the time to get to know you, understand your concerns and advise on any course of action that might be appropriate in the circumstances. For example, they might suggest that you and your partner enter into a Cohabitation Agreement to document your intentions concerning the property and other pertinent issues.
If your relationship has sadly already broken down and you need advice on your rights over the property, our solicitors will take swift, decisive action to protect your position. Wherever possible, they will rely on TOLATA to assert a beneficial interest in the property and seek a favourable settlement with your ex-partner. They view litigation as a last resort and instead use their negotiation skills and alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, to achieve the desired result as quickly and cost-effectively as possible.