Buying a Family Home with Your Partner? Consult a Lawyer First!

Love can be fleeting and, when partners seal their bond by buying a home together, it is sadly no replacement for legal formality. The point was made by a case in which a woman had to rely on a remembered conversation in a pub as proof of her property rights.

HouseThe woman and her partner were together for 17 years and had two children. The man provided the lion’s share of the £740,000 purchase price of their home. After the relationship ended, he launched proceedings in which he claimed entitlement to a greater share of the property, in line with his greater financial contribution.

The couple had taken no legal advice as to beneficial ownership of the property prior to the purchase, but a judge found on the evidence that they owned it in equal parts. He noted the sacrifices that the woman had made to her family in terms of her career and the significant sums of money she had contributed to the family pot.

There was also a presumption that they owned the property equally arising from their registration as joint tenants, and the judge accepted the woman’s evidence that they had agreed to equal ownership to reflect their committed relationship and status as a nuclear family. That account was based on a conversation in a pub some years earlier, during which the man had referred to them as ‘50/50 owners’.

In dismissing the man’s challenge to that ruling, the High Court rejected arguments that the judge misinterpreted the words used during the crucial conversation. In finding that the couple had intended to own the property equally, the judge had carefully assessed the evidence and applied the law correctly.