Separation: How the house is divided
A recent decision by the Supreme Court could have wide ranging implications for unmarried couples who separate and have a property between them.
Previously, the law was quite straightforward in that if the property was held in their joint names and it was expressed as joint tenants, then any division of property would be equal. However, following the decision in Jones –v- Kernott that original expression of equal division can change over time. The court is able to consider the parties’ actions following separation or during their relationship to decide whether their intentions regarding the ownership of the property changed, and if so when it changed and what it changed to.
What does this mean to couples considering separating now?
If a property is held in joint names and there is no intention to sell the property immediately, either because it is needed to house children or the market conditions are not right, both parties must make their intentions clear in writing as to how they believe the ownership of the property should be held. For example, if one party cannot afford to continue to contribute to the payment of a mortgage, if they do not express their position in writing, over a period of time, a court could infer that that person has relinquished part of their share of the property. By the time the property is sold, that persons’ share could be reduced from 50% to 20%.
Each matter will depend on the circumstances, however, it is important to get legal advice on these matters otherwise your share of a property could diminish without you realising.