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  • Unmarried couples and property

    Unmarried couples and property

    If you own or plan to buy a property together with your partner, make sure your interest in the property is clear in an agreement (Declaration of Trust) and review this agreement should you separate and retain a share in the property.

    If your interest in the property is not clear and there is a dispute, you could be tied up in legal proceedings for many months and spend many thousands of pounds to resolve matters.

    Take the case of Mr Quaintance and Ms Tandan in 2012.

    They purchased a property in joint names in 1999 and had a joint mortgage, but Ms Tandan paid the deposit and all the costs to purchase the property. They asked their conveyancer to prepare a Declaration of Trust stating that they held the property as tenants in common in equal shares, but the document was never signed.

    They separated a few months later and Mr Quaintance left the property.

    A year later, Ms Tandan had financial difficulties and could not afford to pay the mortgage. It fell into arrears and the property was repossessed by the lender in 2005. Upon sale, half the net sale proceeds were paid to Ms Tandan and the remaining half were held as Mr Quaintance commenced proceedings.

    The Judge decided that although the intention was to own the property jointly, this intention changed when Mr Quaintance left the property. The Judge held that Ms Tandan should receive all the net sale proceeds.

    Mr Quaintance appealed on the basis that the Judge made an error and that he should receive half of the net sale proceeds. The Judge at appeal disagreed with Mr Quaintance and held that the Judge in the lower Court was correct in his approach.

    Of course this case is specific to the facts, but it illustrates the importance of considering ownership of property, ensuring that a legal document reflects this and reviewing the position should you leave a property you hold a share in.


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