There is no such thing in English law as ‘common law’ marriage and this is a misconception which is widely believed amongst unmarried couples in the UK
No matter how long you have lived together as a couple, unless you are married when the relationship comes to an end it is each man (and woman) for themselves. You will still be treated as an individual by any courts unless you have entered in to a same sex formal civil partnership.
Unmarried couples have no rights to their partner’s property and in the end what is his is his and hers is hers and whatever is owned between you must be divided. This applies to the home as well. If you have bought a house in joint names, upon separation it should be split. Either party can then force a sale in order to release any equity in the property.
If the property is in the name of one individual then the other has no rights to claim co-ownership unless it can be shown that that there was an understanding they would be entitled to a share, this can be shown by the following:
- Agreement in a conversation, which can be difficult to prove
- Agreement in writing
- If the other party has contributed money towards the initial purchase of the property then the courts are likely to acknowledge that it should have been a joint- mortgage.
- If the person who is not included on the ownership documents has paid towards the mortgage, bills or even sold their own property in order to move in with their partner and provide funds which they could both access then again the courts may acknowledge a share of the property.
When you buy a property in joint names, whether it be a partner, friend or relative, you must choose to own the property as either joint tenants or tenants-in-common.
Joint Tenants – each individual jointly owns the entire property. This is common for married couples as it means upon the death of one party the remaining share of the property passes directly to them.
Tenants- in- common – each owner has a share in the property. If there are two owners this will automatically result in half each. It is also possible to decide between yourselves what share of the property belongs to each owner. Each of you will always own your share of the property, and are only entitled to a percentage of the sale proceeds, if sold during your lifetime. If one party dies then that share of the property becomes part of their estate – unlike Joint Tenants the share of the property does not pass to the other owner(s) automatically.