Top Tips to get out of the Property Ownership Maze when you Break Up

More than 2 million couples cohabit in England and Wales and awareness of their different legal rights in property ownership is very poor.

The large rise in the number of “coownership” property disputes is evidence that parties in an unmarried relationship give little thought as to what is to happen to the property that they have acquired together, if they separate. In the absence of cohabitees actually expressing agreement in a document, as to exactly what  their respective shares are before they acquire the property, they then enter into an area of extreme uncertainty as to their legal rights in the future  if they were to separate.

It is then left to the Court to decide what is a just and fair result as to their respective interests in the relevant property ownership and also whether by their conduct or contributions, it would be unjust to award them the figure they demand. These arguments are based on difficult legal principles , and there is considerable uncertainty as to how a judge will rule in the situation.

The Court of Appeal has in 2011 declared that their starting point will be to assume that in the absence of any documentation confirming what the respective party share is the starting point will be a 50% share of the property ownership.

Accordingly to avoid falling into this trap the following are my TIPS:-

  1. Cohabitees can enter into a cohabitation agreement before they purchase property, which will determine their exact interests.
  2. In the alternative, a trust deed can be entered into where they declare their respective interests and decide what is to happen is there is to be a Sale.
  3. In the event of a separation, urgent advice needs to be obtained as to how the property was registered at HM land registry. In the absence of documentation filed at the land registry, they will assume that the property has been bought as joint tenants and we would need to advise as to severing the joint tenancy, so that each cohabitee  share  is seperated at the land registry. This will prevent their share going to their estranged partners on their death.

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Employment Law Developments

Employment law booksIn the Queens Speech reference was made to legislation in a Bill to reform trade unions and protect essential public services from disruption caused by strikes, by introducing the following provisions:

  • Minimum threshold of 50% of voters to turn out to vote on union ballots (with the requirement for a simple majority of votes in favour).
  • For industrial action in the health, education, fire and transport services, the requirement that 40% of those entitled to vote, vote in favour of striking (in addition to the minimum 50% voting turnout threshold).
  • Prevention of intimidation of non-striking workers during a strike.
  • Time limits on mandates following a ballot for industrial action.
  • Transparent opt-in process for the political fund element of trade union subscriptions (as in practice in Northern Ireland).
  • Changes to the role of Certification Officer.

We advise clients in areas of unfair dismissal, harassment at work and discrimination, and call us for expert advice and guidance.

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