Spare your home a separation ordeal

Our lawyer Fiona McNulty looks at the legal issues relating to joint property ownership
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Question: My partner and I are both moving to London and buying a small terraced house together. I inherited money and so do not need a mortgage and my friend has money from a divorce settlement and doesn’t need a mortgage either.

What will happen if we decide to separate after buying the property? How do we protect  our shares in the property if one of us wants to go off and we sell at some stage?

Answer: As you will be cohabitees it is advisable for each of you to have  independent legal advice  regarding your rights in the property which  you intend to buy as there  could be a conflict of interest between the two of you.

It sounds as though you will both be contributing to the purchase price  of the property but you have not mentioned whether you will each be paying 50 per cent of the purchase price. It would be prudent for you to hold the legal title to the property as co-owners and to hold the equitable interest as tenants in common and for you to have a separate Declaration of Trust setting out your respective interests in the property.

If you ask hold the property as tenants in common then you will each be able to leave your share of the property under the terms of your Will as there is no automatic right of survivorship i.e. the deceased’s partner’s share does not automatically pass to the survivor on death.

As cohabitees it would also be sensible to take advice regarding a cohabitation agreement as well.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email, or write to: Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors (

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