By Martin Williamson, Head of Residential Property, Latimer Hinks Solicitors www.latimerhinks.co.uk
With house prices on the rise throughout the country and with little sign of the market slowing down, there has been a steady increase in the number of unmarried couples buying their first home together in a bid to make living costs more manageable.
A cohabitation agreement or no-nup works in a similar way to a prenuptial agreement in a marriage, as it sets out how the assets are to be divided amongst the two parties should their relationship come to an end. These cover any joint assets, such as property and savings, as well as any debt, including credit cards and overdrafts.
The number of unmarried couples living together has doubled since 1996 to 5.9 million with the number of marriages declining by a third in the past 30 years, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
However, the problem with cohabitation agreements is that they do not offer the same legal protection as marriage.
When married couples divorce or civil partners break up in England and Wales, both parties have a legal right to their share of the assets, which includes property. But, cohabiting couples have no such rights, regardless of the number of years spent together and whether they have children. The property will be equally divided even if one partner has contributed more, unless prior to completion of the purchase they give thought to these issues and have documentation drawn up stipulating their respective shares in the property and what is to happen in the event of a break-up.
According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) latest residential market study, 26% more chartered surveyors reported an increase in sales in April compared to the same time last year. Even more surveyors believe that house prices will rise over the coming months throughout the UK. It looks likely that this will lead to a continuation of people buying homes as a couple - and entering into cohabitation agreements - to keep up with the rising cost of living.
To guard against any problems surrounding such agreements, it would be wise to properly research the situation and, if necessary, seek legal advice to ensure a smooth transition in case of a break-up in an unmarried relationship.
Please note: This article is intended as guidance only and does not constitute advice, financial or otherwise. No responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by Latimer Hinks. In addition, no responsibility for loss occasioned/costs arising as a result of any act/failure to act on the basis of this article can be accepted by the firm.
Martin Williamson is Head of Residential Property at Latimer Hinks Solicitors in Darlington. Latimer Hinks has a team of around 40 people serving private and corporate clients. For further information: www.latimerhinks.co.uk or call 01325 341500.
PROPERTY COLUMN FOR THE DARLINGTON AND STOCKTON TIMES: ISSUED ON BEHALF OF LATIMER HINKS
Latimer Hinks solicitors, based in Darlington, has a team of around 40 people serving private and corporate clients. Their range of expertise and services covers legal issues surrounding commercial, residential and agricultural property, wills and lasting powers of attorney, trusts, probate, long-term care, tax planning, commercial law, alternative and renewable energy, property and disputes, business rescue, employment, and land-owning.