Am I Entitled To Half The House If I Am Not Married?

Am I Entitled To Half The House If I Am Not MarriedAm I Entitled To Half The House If I Am Not Married?

Fewer people than ever before are choosing to marry or enter into a civil partnership. The decline is starkest amongst younger people, with figures showing that the number of unmarried individuals aged between 25 and 35 had doubled between 1991 and 2021. However, despite these arresting statistics, the law is yet to catch up. Confusion abounds as to the rights of unmarried couples, with questions such as, ‘Am I entitled to half the house if I am not married?’ being amongst those most regularly asked of our family law solicitors. The answer depends on the facts of your individual situation, but generally speaking, the rights of unmarried couples are akin to those of cohabitees as opposed to their married counterparts and civil partners.

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Am I Entitled To Half The House If I Am Not Married But My Name Is On The Title Deeds?

A house can be jointly owned in one of two ways: as joint tenants or tenants in common. Whichever you choose, the names of both you and your partner will appear on the Title Deeds. However, your choice of ownership may affect what you are entitled to when the house is sold.

Joint tenants each own the entire property. Neither has an identifiable share so when the house is sold, the proceeds of sale will be split equally regardless of matters such as who paid the mortgage or funded a renovation. When one partner dies, the house will pass in its entirety to the remaining owner. Most couples who buy a house together own it as joint tenants.

In a tenants in common situation, each partner owns a specific share of the house. The ownership shares might be 50/50, they could reflect the extent of each owner’s contribution to the purchase price, or they could be split on any other basis the owners consider appropriate. Since the parties have identifiable shares, the sale proceeds will be split according to those shares when the house is sold. When one partner dies, their share of the house will pass to their named beneficiary if they left a Will, or their next of kin under the Intestacy Rules if they died intestate.

Whilst this type of ownership is most often used by friends who purchase a house together, some couples also opt for it, particularly if they want to leave their share of the property to specific people on their death, most usually children from a previous relationship.

Am I Entitled To Half The House If I Am Not Married, And My Name Is Not On The Title Deeds?

Unmarried couples are treated in law as cohabitees, meaning their rights are the same as people who live together as friends. So, if your name is not on the Title Deeds, you are not automatically entitled to half, or indeed any share, of the house you live in with your ex-partner.

The situation may be different if you can show that, notwithstanding the legal position, you and your partner intended the own the property jointly. In these cases, you may be deemed to have a beneficial interest in the house and so be entitled to live there, share in the sale proceeds, or be paid a lump sum, as the Court sees fit.

Claims of this nature must be brought under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act (TOLATA). Crucially, TOLATA claims are based on the parties’ intentions, not what would be fair. Accordingly, you must produce convincing evidence that you and your ex-partner intended to own the house jointly. The types of evidence required are case-specific but might include you funding a substantial house extension or paying the mortgage.

How We Can Help

Contrary to popular belief, there is no such concept as a ‘common law marriage’. If unmarried couples wish to benefit from the rights enjoyed by married couples and civil partners, they must take proactive steps to put them in place. Our expert family law solicitors will advise on the options available in your circumstances, and prepare any documentation required. For example, you and your partner might decide to execute a Deed of Trust in respect of the house you share, or enter into a Cohabitation Agreement to detail your intentions regarding the house and any other relevant matters.

If your relationship has ended, our family law team are on hand to help you navigate the legal and practical aspects of your separation. They will review any documentation you and your partner put in place to deal with your joint assets in the event of a breakup and advise on its effects. They will consider ownership of the house you shared and advise on whether you have any legal entitlement to a share in it or might be able to assert a beneficial interest. Our family law solicitors understand the incredible strain clients going through a separation are under and will guide and support you through the legal processes with care and empathy, protecting your interests and paving the way for you to forge a positive future.

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