About Cohabitants’ Property Rights

What is Cohabitation

When a heterosexual or gay couple have set up home together but are unmarried they are said to be cohabiting. Applications under this area of the law have also been made by other parties who are not considered to form part of the traditional idea of the family unit; these include property investors and adult children who had been living with a parent. It is often mistakenly thought that unmarried cohabiting couples have the same rights as their married counterparts nevertheless, this is not so and the reality is that there is still a vacuum in the law which results in the courts sometimes deciding cases in a way that may seem unduly harsh or unjust.

How can property be bought

Property can be bought in a number of different ways each of which would suit parties in different circumstances and which gives them varying degrees of rights to the property.

In Joint Names

There may be a situation where the property is purchased in joint names but the beneficial interest, meaning the advantages of ownership of the property like the right to live in it or sell it, is expressly held jointly by both parties meaning that each party owns 50% of the property. In this situation the interest in the property would pass directly to the survivor in the event that the other dies.

On the other hand, the property can be held in joint names but the advantages of ownership of the property are held in equal or unequal shares with all having an equal right to use the property but not an automatic right to the interest if the other tenant dies. In this situation the ownership interest of the deceased can be separately sold, mortgaged or left to another in a will. This second form of purchase would suit a couple who have children from a previous relationship or dependants who they can leave their ownership interest in the property to in a will.

Thirdly, property can also be bought in joint names but the ownership of the beneficial interest is not indicated.

In the name of one party

The property could also be bought in the name of just one of the parties. Whereas this can place the other party in a more unfavourable position than if the property had been purchased in joint names, it does not mean that they will be left unprotected by the law.

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