Can My Girlfriend Take Half My House UK?
When a couple decides to live together, it’s important for them to understand their legal rights and responsibilities, especially when it comes to the home they share. Many people believe that if they live with their partner for a certain period of time, they automatically gain a legal right a share of their partner’s property. However, unless the property is owned jointly, this is not the position under English law. Our expert family law solicitors are frequently approached by unmarried property owners asking ‘Can my girlfriend take half my house under UK law?’ Here, we take a look at the legal rights of unmarried couples over the home they share.
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Can My Girlfriend Take Half My House UK If We Own It Jointly?
If you and your girlfriend own the house jointly, she is legally entitled to a share in it. However, this does not automatically mean she can take half of the property; her share depends on how the property is held.
In England, the law recognises two types of property ownership: a joint tenancy and a tenancy in common. A joint tenancy means that both partners own the entire property together, while a tenancy in common means each partner owns a specific share. The type of ownership determines what happens to the property if one partner dies or the couple decides to separate.
Most couples who buy a property together usually do so as joint tenants. As a general rule, a joint tenancy arrangement is the more straightforward option since it doesn’t require the couple to agree how ownership should be split, which some may find uncomfortable. If one partner dies, their share of the property automatically passes to the surviving partner and does not form part of their Estate. If you separate from your girlfriend, she is entitled to half of the house.
Under a tenancy in common, a couple can choose how to split ownership of the house. If one partner has contributed more to the purchase price, they may be keen that this be reflected in their property share. The couple can alter their respective shares over time to mirror the changing reality of their relationship. So, if one partner starts to make greater mortgage contributions, or funds a home renovation project, the couple may agree to amend their ownership shares. If one partner dies, their share of the property forms part of their Estate and will pass to their beneficiaries under their Will or pursuant to the intestacy rules. If you separate from your girlfriend, she is entitled to the share of the house that legally belongs to her.
Can My Girlfriend Take Half My House UK If It Is In My Sole Name?
When it comes to property ownership, English law does not recognize the concept of a ‘common law’ wife or husband. Contrary to what many believe, simply sharing your partner’s home does not automatically entitle you to a share in it, regardless of the length of time you have lived there or the contributions you have made to its upkeep. As a starting point, therefore, your girlfriend cannot automatically take half of your house if your relationship breaks down.
However, there is an important exception to this general rule. If your girlfriend can prove that she has made substantial financial contributions to the property, she may be deemed to have a ‘beneficial interest’ in it, and accordingly, rights over it. Her rights can be recognised in a number of ways, including allowing her to live in the house or recovering the funds she invested in it.
As we have stressed, your girlfriend’s rights in these circumstances are not automatic. Claims of this type are notoriously difficult to prove and depend on the Claimant (the person making the claim) having persuasive evidence that both parties intended the house to be jointly owned.
How We Can Help
If you own a house in your sole name and are concerned that your girlfriend might seek to take half of it if your relationship ends, our expert family law solicitors can advise on the options available to you. For example, you and your girlfriend could enter into a ‘Cohabitation Agreement’ whereby you state how any assets should be dealt with if you separate. Given the limited rights afforded to unmarried couples compared to their married counterparts or those in a civil partnership, Cohabitation Agreements provide a convenient, cost-effective way for those couples to document their intentions and minimise the chances of lengthy disputes if their relationship breaks down.
If you and your girlfriend are in the process of separating or have already separated, our family law team can advise on the legal position with regard to your house. If you own the property jointly, our solicitors will identify the basis upon which ownership is shared and advise on the effects of your arrangement. If you are the sole owner, our solicitors will advise on the likelihood of your girlfriend being able to assert a beneficial interest in your home and, accordingly, being granted a share of it. Our firm policy is to give straightforward, concise and practical legal advice. We avoid legal jargon, instead explaining everything in plain English to ensure you fully understand your legal position.
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