Do we need a cohabitation agreement
It's easy to think that because you and your partner have been together for years and are buying or renting a property together, that you will benefit from the same legal protections to which you would be entitled if married.
Unfortunately, however, in the eyes of the law, this is not the case. Unmarried couples who live together, be they romantically involved or just roommates, do not benefit from any legal protections in the same way as a married couple.
What is a cohabitation agreement?
A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that details the financial arrangements that apply to the living situation. This is important in order to ensure that both parties are clear at the outset of their roles and responsibilities while living together.
This will typically include a written agreement as to the proportion of costs that are to be borne by each individual, including rent or mortgage payments, utilities, maintenance and other expenditure resulting from the upkeep of the property.
Where a couple is romantically involved and has children, the cohabitation agreement could include additional provisions for the separation of finances, responsibilities for maintaining or evacuating the property and for child custody, in the event of separation, serious illness or death of either party.
When should a cohabitation agreement be written?
The ideal time to write a cohabitation agreement is prior to entering into shared property ownership or rental. The next best time is now, especially if you have children or a significant joint financial commitment such as a mortgage.
What will be included in a cohabitation agreement?
Your solicitor will help you to determine the most appropriate clauses for your cohabitation agreement, taking into account your relationship status, any joint dependants, your current financial situation and the value of your pension, investments, and other owned property or valuable assets.
The cohabitation agreement will differ based upon whether you are in a romantic relationship with the person with whom you will be cohabiting, or whether it is a formal house share arrangement in which either party is usually only responsible for a defined portion of the rent and bills.
Updating a cohabitation agreement
If you have an existing cohabitation agreement, albeit your circumstances have materially changed, for example, you have split up from your partner and wish to move your new partner into the property, have had children, or are moving from a rented to a mortgaged property, you should update your cohabitation agreement to reflect these changes and to record any new agreements that are made between you and your partner.
Donna Goodsell comments that if you are unmarried, living with someone and wish for your share in the property that you inhabit to be legally protected, you would be wise to seek a cohabitation agreement. Whilst it is not mandatory, a cohabitation agreement can protect your investment, provide clarity and guard against a future change of circumstances.