Moving in together is one of the biggest decisions you can make as a couple. Whether you are buying or renting, there are a number of things to consider and it’s important to get your legal position clear from the beginning.
Mortgage lenders tend to treat couples similarly whether they are married, civil partnered, or not. However, some mortgage lenders require you to have life insurance as a condition of the loan and single (unmarried) men are treated as a higher risk. You can get past this issue by choosing a mortgage without a compulsory insurance clause – there is no legal requirement to have life insurance.
If you are planning on buying a property together for the first time, you will need to decide how you are going to own it, and make this clear in the paperwork. It is also a good idea to make a will, if you have not yet done so.
Joint ownership means you both have a legal share in the property. If the property is only in one person’s name, then the other person will have no legal right to the property if you separate. This can be changed if an agreement is drawn up or if ‘trust principles’* apply.
This means that the whole property belongs to both of you and neither has a separate share. If one of you dies, the other automatically becomes the owner of the whole property. This type of ownership suits most couples who plan to stay together for life.
The property is still owned jointly, but each of you has a separate share. If one of you has contributed more money to the property, you may decide to reflect this in the size of your shares. If one of you dies, that person’s share can be passed on in the will or under the rules of intestacy**.
If you own a property as tenants in common, you will need a separate document or deed setting out the shares in the property and how the proceeds of sale will be divided if you sell the property. This is usually called a ’trust deed’ or a ’declaration of trust’.
If you choose to be tenants in common, it is important to:
If you have already bought a property, you may not be sure how you own it. It is a good idea to find out.
For most properties, there is a record of ownership at HM Land Registry. You can get a copy from the Land Registry online service and check up-to-date information.
If you or your partner already own your property and one of you has moved in, it is likely that the property is only in one person’s name. This is something you need to talk about, especially if you or your partner makes contributions towards the mortgage, bills, and general maintenance of the property.
Try to agree at the beginning what the original position was, ie who owned the property, and agree on what you want the new arrangements to be. Make a short written record of your agreement, preferably in the form of a declaration of trust.
Different types of property and rental agreements have different rules. These also depend on whether you have a council tenancy or private accommodation.
There are three main types of rented private accommodation:
There are different time periods for which tenancies can last and these have different names:
If you and your partner decide to rent a property together, the rental agreement will recognise you both as equal tenants. This doesn’t mean you are each only responsible for half of the rent. If one of you leaves the property, for example, the other will be liable for the whole rent. Always make sure you have seen a copy of the rental agreement.
If the tenancy is only in one partner’s name, the other has no automatic right to remain in the property if the couple break up. You would have to negotiate with the landlord about the possibility of transferring the tenancy to another name, and your success will depend on how good a relationship you have with your landlord.
* Trust principles: Trusts are created to hold assets for the benefit of certain persons or entities. A written declaration of trust states the terms and conditions for the distribution of assets.
** Rules of intestacy: If a person dies without having made a will, this is called ‘dying intestate’. Intestacy rules dictate how the money, property or possessions should be distributed and who should inherit them.