Unmarried Couples – So you own a house with your ex?


Picture this property scenario – you buy a house with your partner. You renovate it together. You both contribute to the purchase costs and you share the mortgage payments.

A few years, and tins of Farrow and Ball paint later, you decide to go your separate ways. But you never married and only one of you wants to sell. What are your options?



Above all be practical and try and talk it through. Is the issue affordability to buy the other out? Or perhaps one party wants to live there for a period before an agreed sale.

Try to come up with workable solutions before you resort to formal legal steps



If negotiations prove difficult you may wish to consider mediation. A mediator (usually also a lawyer) is a neutral third party who is specially trained to guide your discussions through to a solution.



Family law solicitors will be able to advise you as to your rights under the law generally as well as under any declaration of trust or any other formal agreement reached between you. From there your solicitor will be able to negotiate with the other party or their solicitor.


Force a sale through the court

If your ex refuses to budge you can apply to the court for an order that the house is sold. This will take time, before you can even get the property onto the market. There are also legal costs to consider. Get early advice on the chances of success.


Prevention better than a cure

Buying a property with someone, whether a romantic partner or otherwise, is not a step to be taken lightly. Before you take it,sit down with your partner to discuss your options.  Consider the following:


  1. Declaration of Trust

A declaration of trust. is a common way for unmarried couples in particular to set out the basis on which they will both own the property according to purchase amounts and future contributions.

Declarations of trust vary in detail and quality. A family law or property law solicitor can help. Money spent now getting it right will be well spent.


  1. Cohabitation Agreement

Rather like a prenuptial agreement, for married couples, you could decide to opt into a cohabitation agreement. This records the shares in which the property to be held, and what to do in the event of a relationship breakdown. It may include further details above how parties will behave in the relationship. It is a legal document, enforceable by the court as a binding contract.

A family solicitor will be able to help you draw this up.

There is no such thing as common law marriage. Therefore, plan ahead if you can.