Two thirds of new house purchases by unmarried couples
Unmarried Couples Home Ownership
New research has revealed more than six in 10 first-time buyers (FTBs) are registering two or more names on the mortgage, ie unmarried couples when purchasing a property.
Specifically, FTBs – the numbers of whom remain higher than pre-pandemic levels despite an 11% drop over 2022 – are cohabiting in 63% of cases.
The data from Halifax will come as concerning news to private client and family lawyers who are often left dealing with the fallout of couples who cohabit without a cohabitation agreement in place.
With the number of couples cohabiting on the rise, it is therefore no surprise that it has been suggested conveyancers could help reduce cohabitation disputes.
Simon Donald, family partner at Cripps, said:
“[Conveyancers] should not to be afraid to question their client’s awareness of the distinction between what living together and being married truly entails when it comes to property ownership and dispute on separation.
Where the property is being purchased in one party’s sole name, the conveyancer may well need to consider with the couple whether they wish to enter into a ‘living together’ agreement or a specific declaration of trust. These provide invaluable tools for recording the parties’ respective interests in the property. They can also allow the purchasers to record exactly what they will be contributing towards the purchase price or the monthly mortgage repayments; it can also regulate the way in which the parties will contribute to repairs and maintenance – and importantly how such expenditure may be accounted for and reimbursed on any sale. Arguably, the most significant advantage is that a ‘living together’ agreement or declaration of trust can record the specific mechanism for the sale of the property in the event of a relationship breakdown.”
Steve Bish MSWW F.Inst.Pa, founder of S Bish Estate Planning pointed out that under the rules of intestacy unmarried couples are not automatically entitled to anything following the death of a partner and advised:
"If you're an unmarried couple living together, you may not know that the rules of inheritance are different for you than they are for married couples. Unless you have specific plans in place, your assets may not be distributed the way you want them to be.
It's important, after buying a property, to take professional advice and get wills in place as soon as possible."
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