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It can happen to anyone, if you don't know your rights!

View profile for Andrew Leakey
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There was judgment in the case of Ashby v Kilduff [2010] EWHC 2034 (Ch) in the High Court yesterday. David Ashby is a well known former Conservative MP and it seems even he did not know his rights during his relationship with Dr Kilduff.
 
The Judgment highlights that you should make your intentions known throughout your relationship. Most couples do not discuss what would happen if they separate and this can lead to lengthy and expensive court cases (as can be seen from the recent judgment). This case shows that intentions must be clear between couples residing together as to the interests in the home.
 
A number of key points arise from this judgment for those that are currently residing together. Problems can occur when the property is in the sole name of one of parties in the relationship. What happens to the other person on separation? Can they legally stay in the property? Are they entitled to an interest in it? It is said that the law follows the legal title of the property and if the property is registered in the sole name of one of the parties they can ‘technically’ do as they please with the property which can involve evicting the other party.
 
However, couples should note that just because you are not on the legal title doesn’t mean you cannot bring a claim against a property. There are various ways to prove an interest in the property. Various examples include, paying the mortgage and / or household bills, paying for a home improvement, paying the deposit for the purchase of the property or by an agreement between you that you had an interest. Couples should note therefore that conversations between them as to how the property should be held and should be divided are important and should be accurately recorded.
 
It seems in this case that both parties were declared unbelievable by the Court. It is stated that the Judge found that Mr Ashby ‘“… would in my judgment be quite prepared to tell a pack of lies if he believed it was just for him and in his interests to do so, in which case he could quite easily persuade himself of the truth and accuracy of an inaccurate account” . I deal with a lot of cases where one of the parties does not admit the truth. This is to try and bring a claim or even to defend a claim being brought against the property. Intentions change following the breakdown of relationships and it can be difficult to prove whose version of events should be believed.
 
My advice to anyone in a relationship is to have an agreement drafted to confirm what should happen on separation in respect of the property, the furniture, savings and anything else you might want included. This saves time and distress should there be a relationship breakdown. As you will note from the referred to case it is at the Judge’s discretion as to who he believes is the most truthful as to what was agreed between the parties. Having a written agreement will stop the uncertainty of what would happen on separation and save costs in the future of fighting for your rights through the Courts.

Stephensons are able to assist you with all aspects of cohabitation rights. This can be simply advising you as to what your rights are should your relationship end, drafting a cohabitation or separation agreement to reflect what should happen on the breakdown of your relationship or following the breakdown of your relationship or by assisting you to bring or defend a claim for an interest in a property.
 
By consumer executive, Gillian Lavelle
 

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