In the event that you invite your partner to move in with you into a property that you are the sole legal owner of, you would naturally assume that, in the event of that relationship breaking down, you are the only person with a right to an interest in the property given that it is your name alone on the title deeds. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Simply because you are the sole legal owner does not mean that you are totally protected from legal costs in the event that your partner moves out.
A recent case of Southwell –v- Blackburn has highlighted the risks involved in assuming that you are the sole legal owner of a property under these circumstances. In this case, Mr Southwell had invited Ms Blackburn to cohabitate with him in a property that was owned solely by him, and that he alone was paying the mortgage on. They lived together for a number of years before their relationship broke down. Ms Blackburn had made no contribution to the purchase of the house and as such the judge rejected her claim that she had any financial interest in the property. Mr Southwell, however, was ordered to pay Ms. Blackwell a significant sum of money which effectively represented a portion of the property’s equity. This was the case as Mr Southwell had verbally assured Ms Blackwell that he would provide her with a home and as a result of that assurance, her and her children left secure rental accommodation where Ms Blackburn had previously spent a significant sum of money.
As a home owner, you must be aware that if you live with a partner for any length of time, you are left open to the risk of claims of this nature in the event of your separation, irrespective of the name on the deeds. The best way to protect yourself from such a claim being brought against you is to draft a Cohabitation Agreement that details exactly what the couples intentions are with respect to the ownership of the property, before your partner moves in.
For more information on Cohabitation Agreements or further cohabitee advice, telephone us on 0161 330 6821 or contact a member of our family law department directly:
Nicholas Clough: firstname.lastname@example.org
Denise Pinder: email@example.com