The Cohabitation Conundrum: The legal implications of buying a house before tying the knot. Part 2
In Part 1 we looked at cohabitation in general, now we will look at how you are protected if the worst should happen and your relationship breaks down.
No-one likes to consider the thought of their relationship coming to an end however, as solicitors, we need to be the voice of doom and gloom (only when we have to be!) and it is important to know what your rights are.
We are going to look at the provisions at law which are inadequate and then what should be done about it.
The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 was introduced to offer cohabitants legal rights if their relationship came to an end, however, the Act offers limited financial protection.
What rights do I have? You will be glad to know that there are some things that are covered and that neither of you are left deserted because you are unmarried. The Act provides the following rights to cohabitants if their relationship breaks down:
Sharing of household goods
The Act allows the sharing of household goods (such as ornaments, electrical appliances etc.) bought during the time you lived together with your partner. This means that if you cannot agree who owns the flatscreen tv then the law will assume that the tv is owned jointly and it must be shared with your partner. Also, anything owned prior to you living together remains your property, so if you brought that old sofa from your parent’s house, you have the right to take it with you.
MMI Golden Rule: Any gifts or inheritance received from a third party such as a family member or friend during the period of the cohabitation is not counted as a “household good”. Also excluded are any pets, cars and caravans.
Sharing of money and property
The Act allows the sharing of money or property made by either party for their joint household expenses. Property does not include the home that you and your partner lived in whilst you were cohabiting, it refers to additional property that either you or your partner purchased.
MMI Golden Rule: It is really important to consider how the title to any additional property is taken if you are buying a property jointly; for instance will the property be owned in joint names even if one partner did not contribute to the deposit?
How can I protect myself?
Whilst the Act provides some general rights to cohabitants it is weak, out of date and inadequate. Our advice is that you create a special Agreement with your partner and create a Will in order to ensure that you are protected in the unfortunate event the relationship breaks down. While it may be the last thing on your mind as you come to buy your first house with your partner, as personal circumstances change and the legal environment becomes more complex; having an agreement and Will would provide you with the peace of mind in knowing that if the worst happens you have some form of protection.
MMI offer bespoke cohabitation Agreement and Will writing services to cover your every need just visit our dedicated MMiPeople area.