In previous blogs our specialist cohabitation team have explored the differences between property owners who are married or in a civil partnership and property owners who are not married or in a civil partnership. You can find out more about the key differences in these blogs:
In this piece, I felt it would be helpful to set out some information that unmarried co-owners of a property should obtain in the event of a potential dispute over how a property is owned:
Often your solicitor will be able to obtain this using the Land Registry portal but you can obtain a copy yourself from the Land Registry via this link: https://www.gov.uk/get-information-about-property-and-land/search-the-register
This will show how you currently own the property with your partner (Joint Tenants or Tenants in Common).
This should contain documentation recording the intention of you and your partner when the property was purchased which is extremely important.
However, bear in mind that conveyancers are only likely to hold their files for a limited period after the property was purchased and so, this should be high on your priority list to minimise the risk of the file being destroyed. Therefore, this should always be requested at an early stage.
This document should be contained within the conveyancing file but if, for whatever reason, you cannot obtain a copy of your conveyancing file, you may be able to obtain a copy of the TR1 from the Land Registry using a form OC2: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/official-copies-of-documents-registration-oc2
Since 01 April 1997, the TR1 has contained a box which allows co-owners, at the point of purchase/transfer, to express how they intend to own the property which is in effect a declaration of trust.
This information will be really important in the event of a dispute between co-owners as to how they intended to own the property.
It is possible to have a standalone declaration of trust document (separate to anything contained within the TR1). If you and your partner have entered into one of these then a copy of this document will need to be obtained. If you don’t have a copy at home, the solicitor who prepared it is likely to have a copy (provided the file hasn’t since been destroyed).
In some circumstances it may be that there is no formal documentation regarding the agreement reached but that it was written in letters, emails or notes at some point after the property was purchased. If that is the case then you should collate these documents into chronological order as your solicitor will need to review them.
The above is not designed to be an exhaustive list and, alongside this documentation, further information will be required should there be a dispute in the future with your partner. However, these documents are ones that I would typically want to consider at a very early stage and therefore, the earlier they are obtained the more quickly you can be advised by your solicitor about your position, and potential claim you may have against the property (or indeed whether you are open to any claim by your former partner).
If you are a cohabiting home owner and want to put everything in place to minimise the risk of a dispute over your property in the future, or if your relationship is breaking down and there is an issue over properly, please contact us for a confidential discussion.