When the lockdown was announced in March 2020, many couples who were not yet cohabiting were pushed into a speedy decision as to whether they take the big next step of moving in together. Couples had to make the tough choice of taking the next step when perhaps not quite ready or not see each other for an unknown period of time.

There are some 3.5 million unmarried couples living together in the UK. Some couples remain cohabiting without ever marrying but many do not fully appreciate what may happen upon separation. Unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples or those in a civil partnership. For years some couples have believed there is such thing as a ‘common-law’ wife or husband but this is not true.
Regardless of the length of the relationship, cohabitants often have no legal protection at the end of that relationship. In respect of property, unless in joint names there can be great difficulty in the non-owning party seeking a share in that property. In terms of other assets, there is no entitlement to share unless it is jointly owned. If one party is financially weaker, then there is no right to claim maintenance. There is also no right to one another’s pensions.

Some couples, whilst renting during the pandemic together, will have thrived and made the big decision to purchase a property together. This can be a very exciting time but it is also a good time for couples to have a discussion about what financial arrangements will be, both in contributions towards the purchase price and also outgoings once the house has been purchased.

Parties can enter into a Declaration of Trust which is a document that confirms the proportions of which each party owns the property. This can clearly show the financial contributions of both parties at the time the property was purchased and can avoid a dispute if the relationship ends and the property has to be sold.

In addition to a Declaration of Trust, parties can enter into a Cohabitation Agreement. This agreement can be entered into at any time and not just at the beginning of cohabitation. The agreement can cover a number of points, including ownership of the property, how household bills and rent/mortgage is paid and division of assets and belongings upon separation.
If you would like advice on a cohabitation agreement then please contact the family team on 01243790532 or email hannahrogers@owenkenny.co.uk. If you would like advice on a Declaration of Trust then please call our Private Client enquiries line on 01243 532777 or email info@owenkenny.co.uk