Posted by David Cobern on 20th March 2019

In this blog I will look at the position of the non-owning unmarried partner on relationship breakdown. For the party with none of the assets, who feels that they have made a contribution and should be entitled to something, what can they do to protect their position?

First and foremost, remember, as a non-owner you are at a disadvantage. Don’t delay, because it could prove prejudicial to you.

  1. Seek advice early. Take a consultation with a solicitor who can tell you about the necessary safeguards to protect your position (we offer a free half hour first appointment).
  2. The burden of proving the claim rests with you because you are the non-owner. If you think you are entitled to a share of the assets, commit your thoughts to paper as soon as possible and explain in your statement why you think you have a claim. Think back to any important conversations you and your partner had which led you to believe you shared an asset legally owned by your partner. Describe what was said, by whom, when and where.
  3. If you can get hold of it, keep any correspondence from solicitors and mortgage brokers relating to the property. This is particularly important if there were initial discussions about buying together but for one reason or another, such as credit rating problems or continuing liability for a previous property, it didn’t happen.
  4. You will have to show that you acted to your detriment because of the agreement to share. Get together the evidence such as bank statements, receipted invoices and estimates demonstrating your financial input. Quantify your claim as far as possible.
  5. If the house was a ‘project’, preserve any correspondence with planning authorities, builders, architects, particularly any evidence of your involvement in the project.
  6. If you don’t own the property, but did or paid for work to it, preserve any ‘before and after’ photographs, especially those showing you doing the work. Judges are very impressed by this!
  7. An engagement can be significant in a claim of this kind. If you were engaged, keep any evidence such as cards, photos, rings or invitations to the engagement party. Be clear about when the engagement ended, because if you want to rely on it in support of your claim, you must take action within three years of the end of the engagement.
  8. Are there any witnesses who will support your case, preferably unbiased third-parties? Find out what they will say if asked.
  9. Take all the information to your solicitor. If you have a good case, they should act swiftly to protect your position by preparing a letter before action, inviting your former partner to consider mediation and applying to the land registry to place a restriction against dealings with the property until the claim is dealt with.

Next time we look at the position of the unmarried partner who is a joint legal owner of the property with their partner.

In the meantime, if you would like to discuss any of these issues, please contact me on 01392 421777.

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