I would appreciate some advice on behalf of my family member who is contemplating leaving her partner of over 20 years.
She is co-habiting with her long term partner and 16 and 15 year old children
Her and her partner bought the current family home in 2002. Because she has been in an emotionally abusive relationship for so long, she wasn't sure what her status is (her partner keeps all info about finances from her) but I have checked at Land Registry and both her and her partner are named as joint owners. It looks as though they are joint tenants. She also knows she is on the mortgage but only attended at Solicitors and mortgage company to sign her name - her partner has always told her that this was a formality and that she has nothing to do with the property. She vaguely recalls being asked to sign a document that says he gets £47000 back if the property is sold (which is the equity he put in having sold his own home to buy this one) - but she doesn't know who the solicitor was and can't ask him. He has mentioned it at points in the relationship and said it was £80,000 but she has a clear memory of a lower amount.
He has paid the mortgage and virtually all the household bills throughout their relationship. Since the children were born she has worked part-time and all her money goes on things like food, school
uniforms, holidays, kids expenses (mobile phones etc). He tells her repeatedly that she does not own the home, because she has not contributed to it, and that he will be giving it to the kids when he had paid off the mortgage. NB: Not HIS half, but the whole house.
My sister has not yet worked up the courage to leave but wants to find out her status for when she does. I think her plan is to tell the kids, then move into a rented property (that they can come with her to, if they want) and only when she is away from the home, start to work out how to get her share of the property.
My questions are:
- is she entitled to half the property?
- if she has signed a document saying that he gets the money (£47000) that he paid in, would that be reflected on the deeds? It is not - so does that mean she owns half?
- does it matter that she hasn't paid into the mortgage or utility bills? Will she need to prove that she has contributed to the family finances in some way?
- is there any chance he could have transferred ownership to himself without her knowing (he seems very confident that she doesn't own any part of the house but I think he's bluffing and trying to intimidate her)?
- if when she wants to kick-start trying to get her share, do you think she needs a solicitor?
I really appreciate your help. Any advice on any of the points will give her a bit of knowledge and try to regain back some balance in this relationship.
1. If two unmarried
people own property jointly, the presumption is that they own the property in equal shares unless there is anything in the deeds which says otherwise.
2.It could certainly be relevant that he paid £47K towards the property.
3. it could matter if she has made no financial contribution and he has.
4. I doubt if he could have transferred the property to his own name,because that would require a transfer. In any event the property still appears to be in joint names.
5. Yes, I'm afraid you need a solicitor who is experienced in property law. As you aren't married, divorce isn't an issue here.
It is certainly possible for the shares of unmarried co-owners to change over time. The most extreme example is Jones v Kernott, where the parties started off owning 50/50 and one party finished up with 90/10. Admittedly the circumstances were pretty
Thanks LMM, that's very interesting. She has no problem with giving him back the money that he put in, but does want an equal share of the rest of the equity. She has contributed to household finances, just not the mortgage (for example, he has never paid for the kids' clothes,
school uniforms, school trips etc). She did pay for a new kitchen when she got a small inheritance so hopefully that all shows that she was contributing to their house, not his.
Now the kids are a bit older, she has just last month started a full time job. Would it pay her to start contributing to the mortgage, do you think? It's in both their names so I don't think there can be any objection to that (subject to overpayment penalties) and it might show that she is contributing more fully?
I really appreciate your advice and will look into the case law
you highlight above, though to my mind this isn't an extreme case - they just used their money for different household costs.
Contributing towards household expenses, e.g. gas, electricity, telephone, is likely to be disregarded. If you have the benefit of occupation of a home, you should be willing to share the expenses.
If she paid for a new kitchen that could definitely be taken into account..
The point is that the presumption is 50/50, unless the title deeds themselves specify something different.
If either party wishes to argue that the split should not be 50/50
( or whatever the share happens to be ) it is up to that party to justify such a claim. It's possible that the contribution could be in kind ;
if for example one of the co-owners was a handyman and built a home extension, his labour could reasonably be considered.
I have now read the
case law and am heartened because in this case there was an express intention - that he would get back the money he put in when they bought it (before dividing the equity - presumably equally). And there is nothing on the deeds except equal ownership. Thanks for the info LMM.
What I don't get (and this is just me getting interested in the subject so no need to reply unless anyone wants to!) is why the Courts would disregard incidental expenses. I agree with the point that both sides should be contributing to the running of the household but, in this case (and probably millions of cases across the country), one partner stays home to bring up the kids while the other party supports the family financially - that can't surely mean that because they do so, they give up their rights to the home? Many women pay the lower value bits and bobs on their part-time salary just because it's easier to have the big chunk of a mortgage cost to come out of the account where the big chunk of income comes in. It doesn't mean she has been thinking all along that she doesn't own the house because she's not contributing, just that she's contributing by looking after the household/kids.
In my sister's case, she was always told that she could not have anything to do with the mortgage payments - even though he was happy to put her on there when they bought it, so they could borrow more money. So she paid her way by paying for lots of other things - both their incomes went on supporting the family and household but it seems he might have been trying to keep her away from the mortgage payments because he didn't want her to make any claim on the house. If she had known this, she might have insisted on paying for the mortgage instead of the family holiday.