Summer sunshine has really pepped everyone up hasn’t it? And for those in a newish relationship, it might have sparked the decision to take the big step of buying or renting a house with your partner. You may already have started to look at properties or found your place and are ready to move in together.
This is a really exciting time, searching for a property that suits you both. It’s a good idea to put together a wish list so you don’t spend time viewing homes that just don’t fit the bill. Rural or city, how many bedrooms, big/small/no garden, old and characterful or fresh new build?
Family lawyer and director Lucy Theobald shares the top things to consider when moving in together.
Renting a property
If you are intending to rent a property together, it is sensible for you both to be named on the tenancy agreement as this gives you equal rights as tenants. You’ll need to think about contributions you make to the rent and bills; will this be the same amount for you both? If one of you earns more you may decide not to split payments 50/50. But how would you feel about this if things started to go wrong?
Buying a property
Should you plan to buy a house together it really is important to understand what you’re getting into from the start. How much do you know about your partner’s income and their status as regards any existing debt? Can you both contribute equally to the deposit or will one of you find these funds? Will you pay half of the mortgage and bills, and what about any maintenance or repairs? Would you want to open a joint account? Will the house be jointly or separately owned? This in particular could have a major impact on your finances should you separate.
There is also the question of what would happen if one of you dies. Not a frivolous topic, but it is important to be realistic and go into the property purchase fully prepared. In addition, if one of you already owns a property this can complicate matters in the future. Taking legal advice cannot be underestimated.
Then there are questions about your different personalities and aspirations to consider. You may have very different attitudes towards spending which could create future disagreements; if one of you is a natural saver and the other a spendthrift, this is something you’ll need to reconcile. Equally, one partner may feel that moving in together is the harbinger to starting a family together, whilst the other isn’t quite ready to make this decision.
Moving in together – what are your rights?
If you are not married or in a civil partnership you don’t have the same rights as couples who have tied the knot legally. So it may sound harsh but if before you move in together you discuss what you want to happen should you separate, you could save yourself a good deal of stress and heartache in the future.
It’s sensible to put a Cohabitation Agreement in place. This is a legal document signed by you both which states the rights and responsibilities of each party in respect of not just property, but also savings, income, outgoings and ongoing financial obligations during the period of cohabitation and after it ends. It doesn’t disparage your relationship or mean that the worst will happen. It simply makes sense to talk through financial and practical details before you intertwine your lives, your home and your finances.
So even before you start to browse properties, it is wise to take advice from a dedicated unmarried couples’ lawyer who will help you to navigate the law.