Beneficial ownership of a property
If you're co-habiting but don't own the property you share, you may still be entitled to an interest in the property and this is known as beneficial ownership. Our experienced family lawyers could help you to establish your property rights in the event of a split.
Do I have beneficial ownership?
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What is beneficial ownership of a property?
The issue of beneficial ownership arises more in cases where a couple are not married. The phrase Beneficial Interest describes the situation where one cohabitee in a relationship has the right to occupy their home or a right to share in the equity in the property even where the other partner is the legal owner.
This usually becomes an issue when a relationship ends and the legal owner of the property asks the other person to leave, even if that person has contributed significantly to things such as purchase costs, mortgage costs and home improvement costs over a period of years.
What is beneficial interest?
For a couple who are not married, there are three ways in which a beneficial interest can arise:
• Express declaration of interest: This is when the legal owner and their co-habitee have signed a trust deed declaring the share that each has in the property.
• Resulting or implied trust: This is when there is an implication that the couple agreed to share an interest in the property, perhaps because the non-owner has paid significant amounts towards home improvements
• Constructive trust: This is when a court concludes that there was a clear intention or agreement that the non-owning party would gain a beneficial in a property
For this reason, our family lawyers will usually suggest that cohabiting couples have an Express Declaration of Trust with regard to property ownership, and that they also discuss and agree others matters, such as ownership of cars, as part of a Cohabitation Agreement.
How our family lawyers can help
You should also note that while judges will often be guided by them, aren't 100% binding in law. To protect you both as fully as possible, our family law experts are also able to prepare your cohabitation agreement as a formal legal deed to indicate to the court that you both want to be bound by it.
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