Living together (cohabiting) does not give you the same rights as married couples or civil partners in respect of the property you are living in. The “common law” wife or husband does not exist in law. Issues over the property you are living in can arise when your relationship ends or one of you dies, particularly when the property is only owned by one of you. This blog focuses on the situation where property is owned by one person only but we are happy to advise on the issues that can arise where property is owned jointly or rented.
Rights where the property is in one person’s name
The first thing to check is whether the property owner has made a document known as a “Declaration of Trust”. This is a written document which sets out each person’s interest in the property. This is called an express trust. This may give the non property owner an interest in the property.
If there is no express trust and you wish to claim an interest (because you are not a joint legal owner of the property), you will need to establish one of the following:-
- That you contributed in money or monies worth to the purchase of the property and that there was a common intention to hold the beneficial interest in the property in proportion to your contributions. This is known as a resulting trust.
- That you can show there was a “common intention” that you should have a beneficial interest in the property and that you have acted to your detriment on this basis. This is known as a constructive trust.
- That the property owner had led you, either by their words or their conduct, to believe that you have a beneficial interest in the property and as a consequence you have acted to your detriment, making it unreasonable for the property owner to insist that they have total beneficial ownership of the property. This is known as proprietary estoppel.
If the property owner does not recognise that you have an interest in the property, then you may be able to make an application to the court under legislation called the “Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996” (TOLATA 1996).
We can advise on whether you have a claim in respect of the property you are living in. We invite you to contact us on 01323 727321 to make an appointment to see Jacqueline Penfold.