How to protect your investment when living together

Gillian Graveson, partner and expert in family law services at Birchall Blackburn Law, looks at how people buying a house or living together can protect their investment.

 We’re lending my son and his girlfriend money for their house deposit; what happens if they split up?

The best way to protect your investment is to make the deposit into a formal loan, ideally secured against the property. This means that if the property is sold in the future, your money should be recoverable.

In addition, if the property is bought in the names of your son and his partner, your son can have a Declaration of Trust Deed drafted. The Declaration of Trust will fix the shares that he and his girlfriend have in the property – equal or varied. It will also stipulate that when their house is sold, your loan will be repaid directly to you.

My boyfriend is moving in with me. Will he have any rights to my house if the relationship ends?

If your partner is moving into a house that you own, you can both sign a cohabitation agreement stating your financial obligations and ownership expectations. The agreement is comprehensive and provides clarity on what would happen should the relationship end. It can specifically state that your partner will not accrue an interest in your property, even if he is contributing towards bills. The cohabitation agreement can also be used to plan day-to-day matters, such as repair, maintenance and living costs.

I am putting down more deposit than my partner on our new house, will I own more of the property?

In this instance, it is possible for you and your partner to draw up a Declaration of Trust which will state how the ownership of the house is split. You can choose to hold the property as tenants in common in such shares as equivalent to your financial contribution.

I’ve lived in my partner’s house for 10 years; do I have any rights as a common law wife?

In the UK there is no such thing as a common-law marriage. If you aren’t married then the divorce court does not have the power to deal with the division of assets or provide you with financial support. As a cohabitee, if you believe your financial contribution to the home has increased the property value, there may be other court remedies available to you. If you are thinking about cohabiting in the future, it is always advisable to consider entering into a Cohabitation Agreement.

My girlfriend has been paying towards my mortgage for three years and we have agreed she should have an interest in the house. What can we do?

 To confirm that your partner has a monetary interest in the property, it would be a good idea to arrange for a Declaration of Trust Deed to be drafted. This document will clarify how much of the property each party owns. For example, you could own 70% of the property and your girlfriend 30% – representative of the money contributed to the mortgage.

This document will also help should you come to sell the property. Once agreed it will state what proportion of the proceeds of sale each owner receives and when you are entitled to recover that money.