What is Co-ownership of a property and how does it affect you?

by Kidd Rapinet on April 12, 2023
unmarried couple moving boxes into new home

What is co-ownership and how does it affect you?

It’s important to decide how you will jointly own the property when purchasing it with someone else.

In the event of a breakup, cohabiting couples have minimal legal rights, but there are measures they can take to safeguard themselves.

Be prepared & make plans in advance

  • It is essential to discuss and decide how you will own the property with the potential co-owner, as well as your conveyancing solicitor, when purchasing real estate together.

Various forms of joint ownership

  • “Joint tenants” indicates that even if one of the co-owners had signed a will specifying otherwise, the surviving co-owner would automatically inherit the entire property if the deceased co-owner died while the other continued to own it jointly.
  • “Tenants in common” means that even though the parties still jointly own the property, if one of them were to pass away, their share would be distributed in accordance with their will, if they had one, or the intestacy laws, if there was no will, instead of the surviving co-owner automatically inheriting the entire property.

Why is it important to have a Declaration of Trust?

  • You must own the property as tenants in common if you want to possess it in unequal shares. To avoid any ambiguity or doubt in the event of a disagreement later on, it is essential to agree on how you retain your different unequal shares and to document that agreement in a declaration of trust.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement

  • If you intend to live with a partner, you might also want to think about creating a cohabitation agreement that would govern who gets to dwell in the house and who is responsible for what financial obligations, such as paying the bills, both now and in the event of a disagreement in the future.

How do you deal with the family home if you separate/divorce?

  • One of the main questions separating couples have is: what happens to your residence if your relationship with your partner ends and you are not married or in a civil partnership?

The following factors will affect this:

  1. Did you jointly purchase the property or do you own it solely in one of your names?
  2. Does one of you wish to stay, or do you both think that it should be sold?
  3. In the event that one of you can afford to buy out the other, will the mortgage lender agree?
  4. Do you both agree the value of the property?
  5. Do you agree with how much each of you contributed and how the sale proceeds are to be divided? Was that information ever documented somewhere?
  6. Do you have children and where will they live? What are their housing needs?

How can you settle this outside of court?

There are alternatives to traditional court procedures that give couples the chance to reclaim some control over and personalize their situation. Although some cooperation is required, cooperation is typically advantageous to both parties.


Couples can reach an agreement through mediation, which is quicker and less expensive than going to court and enables them to move on, using an impartial mediator who guides the discussions.

Round table meetings

A collaborative solution, in which the couple works through a series of round table discussions with their legal representatives to find a resolution. This enables them to regain some control over the process, mitigate the emotional cost, and reduce the financial cost involved.


Arbitration allows couples to set their own process, agree on their own “judge” and enable a decision to be made in a quicker, more individualized, and more economical manner.

It is always worthwhile to look into alternative solutions before going to court if you find yourself in this challenging situation.

This article was brought to you by Kidd Rapinet Maidenhead’s family solicitors. You can book an appointment with any of the family lawyers across our other offices in Aylesbury, Canary Wharf, Farnham, High Wycombe, Maidenhead or Slough, using the form provided.  Please use the links provided to find more information on divorce or separation, child arrangements and other areas of family law.

These materials and content have been prepared for the benefit of their viewers/readers. They are intended for marketing purposes only and are of a general nature and do not constitute legal advice applicable to any particular facts or circumstances. Kidd Rapinet LLP and/or the author(s) accept no duty of care, responsibility or liability for any loss or damage which you or any third party may suffer as a result of any reliance or use by you or them of these marketing materials and content, except to the extent it is not legally possible to exclude such liability. If you require legal advice on your own situation, please contact us so we can discuss how we may assist.

We’re here to support
your next step

Whatever that may be

Request a video call, phone call
or an in-person meeting

    Go Back