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FDR Law Legal Clinic - buying a house with an unmarried partner

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Legal advice from Chris Illingworth, a specialist conveyancing solicitor at FDR Law, Frodsham.

Buying a house with an unmarried partner?

Q: I am about to buy a house with my partner. We are not married or in a civil partnership. Is there anything special I need to do to protect my interests in the property?  

A: Congratulations on your house purchase and certainly you are joining a growing number of people co-owning a property without the extra legal protection of marriage.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of co-habiting couples has almost doubled since 1996 from 1.5million to 2.9 million in 2012. However the law has not kept pace with this growing trend and there is a wide misconception that being common law spouses after a certain time gives you the same legal protection in the event of a split as married partners.

The plain fact is that it doesn’t. However there are a number of steps you can take to protect your investment.

Firstly make sure the property is registered in both names. You can elect to be ‘tenants in common’ or ‘joint tenants in equity’. As ‘tenants in common’ you own a specific share of the property which you then have the right to leave to someone other than your partner in your will.

If you become a ‘joint tenant’, the law assumes you own 50% of the property which may not be the case if you have each invested different amounts. If one of you dies, ownership will automatically pass to the other co-owner and nothing in your will could override this.

Your conveyancing solicitor will be able to give you expert advice appropriate to your situation.

Secondly it would be sensible to make a will at this time because if you die, a partner outside marriage has no automatic right to any of your estate, including your share of the house.

For more information contact Chris Illingworth on 01928 739300 or email