Three's a crowd - especially when it comes to buying a house

Our lawyer, Fiona McNulty, explains how matrimonial home rights can affect the sale and occupation of a property
Legal cartoon
© Merrily Harpur
Question: We are in the process of buying a house from a couple who are splitting up. When we offered on the house both were on the title deed. But now they have registered the house in her name and he has taken out a charge against the property. Should we be worried?

Answer: Technically, alarm bells should be ringing here. By registering the charge the husband has given notice of his matrimonial home rights, which include a right to occupy.

Depending where the couple are with their divorce and financial discussions you could well find yourselves subject to his occupation rights until their divorce settlement is sorted out.

This scenario is unusual because I would normally expect to see the husband’s rights settled at the point he transferred ownership over to his wife. It is also unusual to incur the cost of a transfer between spouses when the property is to be sold anyway. In this case there was even an offer for sale on the table.

I suggest that you ask your solicitor to check where the couple are currently in their divorce proceedings. It may be that an agreement has been reached and the couple are waiting for the court to process the paperwork. Your solicitor will, at least, need to secure an undertaking from the seller’s solicitor that the notice will be removed upon completion of this sale.

The husband is probably more concerned with protecting money rather than the right of occupation itself. Once the house is sold and the notice has been removed, and the money is available, the couple can argue over its division for as long as they like.

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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.

Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP

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