Unmarried couples are not afforded the same property rights as those who are married or in a civil partnership, with co-habiting couples not automatically entitled to make financial claims against each other on separation.

Property rights for unmarried couples will also differ depending on whether they live in rented accommodation or whether a property is owned together.

Diane Matthews, family law specialist at Woodcocks Haworth and Nuttall Solicitors, explores whether cohabiting couples have the right to remain living in the home if their relationship has come to an end.

A rented property

If you and your partner are co-habiting in a rented property and you are not named on the tenancy agreement, you have no right to remain in the property if your partner asks you to move out at the end of your relationship.

If, however, the tenancy agreement is in joint names, you have equal rights to remain in the property if your relationship ends.

It is possible to obtain a court order transferring the tenancy, if for example you wish to transfer the tenancy into your partner’s sole name. Do keep in mind that your landlord would have to agree to any change to the tenancy agreement.

Before moving into rented accommodation with a partner, it is therefore vital that the tenancy agreement is in joint names.

Privately owned property

If the home occupied by you is jointly owned, you have equal rights to remain in the property if your relationship breaks down.

If you are the sole owner of the property, you and only you have the right to remain in it, unless your partner obtains an order from the court that he or she has a right of occupation – known as an occupation order.

Your partner may be able to claim a beneficial interest in a solely owned property, which would give your co-habiting partner who doesn’t own the property the right to:

  • Live in the property
  • A share of the income if the property is rented out
  • A share of the profit achieved on the sale of the property if it is sold

Occupation order

As an unmarried partner, in some circumstances it is possible to obtain a court order enabling you to remain in the property. While this is usually only on a temporary basis, such an order has to be achieved via formal court proceedings and it may prove expensive.

Many practitioners agree that reform to laws governing cohabitation is long overdue, as it’s an area which is confusing, uncertain and in some cases, unfair.

Cohabiting couples should carefully consider their position and think about having a properly prepared cohabitation agreement. This should be discussed between the parties to ensure that they have a common intention and a clear understanding of their situation.

Taking this time at the beginning of cohabitation can save considerable time and cost should the relationship come to an end.

To discuss preparing a cohabitation or living together agreement please do contact one of our specialist family lawyers.

Diane Matthews is a legal executive based at WHN Solicitors’ Blackburn office. She specialises in divorce and separation, including resolving financial and property disputes for unmarried families, pre-nuptial agreements and cohabitation agreements. 

With broad experience in financial remedy proceedings, Diane is committed to a non-confrontational approach and works to provide proactive, constructive and sensible advice from the outset, while she is also experienced in court proceedings.

If you need help preparing a cohabitation or living together agreement, our specialist solicitors are here to help. Please contact Diane on 01254 272640 or by email diane.matthews@whnsolicitors.co.uk