What rights do cohabiting partners have over their property?

More and more couples are choosing to live together without marrying or entering into a civil partnership. There are some legal consequences when it comes to property for people who choose to cohabit in this way, so let’s take a look at some of them.

If you and your partner are looking to buy a property together, you need to decide the kind of joint ownership you want to be registered with the Land Registry.

When buying a property as partners, it is also important to get the appropriate legal advice. The easiest way to do this is by searching the Law Society list for a solicitor who specialises in conveyancing; for example, if you are buying a property in the capital and are looking for a conveyancing solicitor London offers many options.

Joint tenants or tenants in common?

The two forms of ownership in these cases recognised under English law are joint tenants and tenants in common.

In the former case, the two individuals are deemed to be joint and equal owners; therefore, they are presumed to have a 50-50 share of the property.

On the other hand, tenants in common own shares in the property. This can be set as a 50 per cent share each; however, it more frequently reflects unequal shares, such as 70-30 or 60-40. This may be the case where the partners recognise that there has been or remains an unequal contribution to the purchase price of the property.


This kind of arrangement is usually stated in a declaration of trust. In the absence of such evidence of an agreement on the unequal shares, the presumption is that the property is held in equal shares.

There may be an agreement entered into by the parties after the purchase of the property that needs to be taken into account to establish that although ownership of the property seems to be enjoyed on a 50-50 basis, there is a good reason unequal shares should be applied and the original position be ignored.

Often courts will be reluctant to allow such a claim. The burden of proof will lie with the party wishing to make the change.

Property held in a sole name

If the property is registered in just one person’s name and no declaration of trust has been signed, a cohabitee may still be able to establish that a partner has an interest in the property by proving that there was a common intention to share the ownership of the property or that the non-owner was led to believe they had an interest.

It is important to establish cohabiting property ownership from the outset. As the law is complicated, it is vital to seek the advice of a conveyancing solicitor London or in whichever part of the country you are buying.

Once you have located a solicitor, you can explain the kind of joint ownership you wish to establish and get the best advice.

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