Co-habitants rights. Do they exist?

Filed under : Civil Law, Conveyancing & Property Law, Family Law

In English law there is no such thing as a “common law marriage”. In fact the situation for co-habiting couples is causing increasing concern as more than 35% of couples who live together and share property believe they have legal rights which in fact do not exist. This was revealed in a survey carried out by an English law firm. Equally revealing is that 75% of co-habiting couples believe they should have the same rights as married couples.

The reason this is so important in England and some other countries is that co-habiting couples who own property as joint tennants don´t understand that this means that they own as to 50/50 regardless of how much each has contributed. Another potential problem on separation is that a number of couples live together for many years in a property where the legal title is solely in the name of one of the couple. To prove you have any legal rights or any right to any of the sale proceeds can be very difficult and expensive.

The situation for co-habiting couples in Spain can be even more difficult. In terms of proving property rights these would be governed by the laws of the country where the property is situated ie. Spain. This can mean that a jointly owned property in Spain is to be divided as to 50/50 regardless of the contributions of each of the parties.

If you live together in a property where only one of the parties has legal ownership in the UK you would need to rely on proving that there was a “common intention” to own jointly or a trust relationship. However, trusts are not recognised in Spain so you have to prove your contribution with physical evidence of payments to make any claim on the property.  Co-habitation agreements can be drawn up dealing with these issues but it would be necessary to get detailed advice on how this can affect property rights. The worst thing would be to arrive in this situation without being aware of your rights and obligations so prevention is always better than cure.

Where there are rights of occupation for children the position is more straightforward. For advice on this or any aspect of co-habitation, family and property rights contact our experienced property and Family lawyers on 952 527014 or email us on [email protected]