Nowadays, many couples choose cohabitation instead of marriage, and buying a house together is an exciting time, however there are some important practical things to consider before you make such a big step.
If a couple chooses to live together, they could look to enter into a ‘Cohabitation Agreement’. In drawing up a Cohabitation Agreement, it is crucial to take legal advice – especially in situations where one cohabitee may have more income or assets, or is the owner of the property where you will live. Cohabitation Agreements are drawn up when a couple choose not to marry, but want to regulate clearly their property rights and other arrangements. A Cohabitation Agreement usually covers personal property, financial outgoings, maintenance or support on separating (including child maintenance) and the sharing or division of future property and financial assets if the relationship ends.
Should you or your partner decide to end the relationship you should be aware of the potential consequences that may arise (’Cohabitee Disputes’). The most common misconception about cohabiting is that the parties are protected by “common law” if they separate and property will be shared equally as if they were married – however, English law treats unmarried couples very differently to married ones.
Alternatively, a ‘Declaration of Trust’ could be drawn up. This would set out the contributions made by each party to the purchase price of their home and anticipated contributions such as mortgage payments and other expenses and, importantly, how the value would be divided in the event of the breakdown of their relationship or even on the death of one of them. The Declaration of Trust could also set out any contributions made by parents. It is important to remember that if you decide to get married after a Declaration of Trust, this may not be completely binding.
If a couple do decide to get married, they should consider entering into a Pre-Nuptial Agreement. This will confirm property rights and intentions as to financial arrangements in the event that the marriage does not work.
Our ‘Guide to Buying Together Wisely’ talks you through these issues in a little more detail and gives an example scenario to bring a given situation to life.