There’s no such thing as a ‘common-law marriage’ in England and Wales. So you won’t be entitled to a share in your home if you’re not married and it’s owned in your partner’s name alone. This stark warning for cohabiting couples follows the comments made by a senior judge in a recent case.
Many people are under the mistaken view that English law recognises something known as a ‘common-law marriage’ and that if you live with someone this entitles you to a share of their property.
But in the recent case of Curran -v- Collins the Court of Appeal confirmed that when partners are not married, one partner has no rights to property in the name of the other unless their name is on the deeds (or more accurately, if your name does not appear in the title register at the land registry. )
This is in contrast to the position for married couples, where a spouse whose name is not on the deeds can still claim a share in the property.
Miss Curran was claiming a share in the home and business of her partner Mr Collins. But despite the fact that she had lived with him for over thirty years and helped with the business, the judges decided that under English law as it now stands, she was not entitled to any share. Lord Justice Toulson expressed his sympathy for Miss Curran, saying “The law of property can be harsh on people, usually women, in that situation. Bluntly, the law remains unfair to people in the appellant’s position …”
It does not appear from the details of the case reported so far that Miss Curran was claiming that she had contributed to the purchase price of the property, and the outcome might have been different if that had been the case.
There have been many previous calls for the law to be changed. In 2007 the Law Commission published a report recommending reform of property laws to give those in cohabiting relationships the same rights as married couples in order to ‘reflect the growing prevalence and public acceptance of cohabitation’. However, the Government announced in 2011 that it had no plans to change the law.
So the blunt advice to anyone living with a partner is either to get married or to get your name registered as one of the joint owners of any home which you occupy – if you don’t, it will belong entirely to your partner.
For help and advice on all property-related legal matters contact Fridaysmove.