I always seem to have at least one case where a couple’s relationship broke down years ago and one of the parties moved out. Following this, the person remaining in the property normally has been paying the full mortgage repayments and the household bills. Some people even carry out various home improvements to the property. And then the ex-partner returns and demands a 50% interest in the house. The client then turns to me for advice. Can they do this?
Well the answer legally is yes! Whilst the property remains in joint names the ex-partner will always be entitled to a 50% interest whether they have contributed to the property in the last 10 years or not.
It seems that most people think that if the ‘ex-partner’ has not paid for a long time they automatically lose their interest. This is completely untrue and people should be wary of paying for a mortgage not in their sole name.
The Courts will however try and put the person who remained in the property back in the position they were in. But is unlikely you would get back everything you had paid towards the mortgage. The property will also have increased in value and the ex-partner has returned and obtains 50% of the equity without contribution. It will therefore be more difficult for the person who remained in the home to buy out the ex-partner at this time rather than when the parties separated.
It will therefore always be my advice to deal with the property on the breakdown of the relationship. This could be by transferring the property into one of the party’s sole name, agreeing to sell the property or preparing a separation agreement which confirms that the ex-partner no longer has an interest in the property following the breakdown of the relationship.