Cohabitation agreement UK: what are my rights to mortgage contributions if my partner and I split up and he owns the house?

Question: I recently moved into my boyfriend’s house. We both pay the same amount now into an account from which we pay all outgoings including the mortgage repayments.

If anything were to happen to my boyfriend, or if we were to split up, would I be entitled to a share of the house, bearing in mind my financial contributions?

Answer: On the breakdown of a marriage or civil partnership each party has a legal right to claim maintenance and a share of the relevant assets, and the court has total discretion to take into account all relevant circumstances and to make an appropriate order.

It is a myth that living together amounts to some sort of common-law marriage. English law gives no legal status to cohabiting couples and they do not have the same legal rights as married or civil partners.

Notwithstanding your contributions, you cohabit. Therefore you have no rights, or very few.

However, should you make a significant financial contribution such as paying for major improvements to the house, then you may be able to argue that you did this in return for a share of the property.

If your boyfriend would not accept that argument, you would need to pursue a claim under the law of trust which would be complex and costly.

It would be sensible to have a Cohabitation Agreement with your boyfriend confirming each of your responsibilities for outgoings and what would happen in the event of your relationship breaking down.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. Questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a solicitor specialising in residential property.

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