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Helping Families with Cohabitation Agreements

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There are many reasons why unrelated people choose to live together. Some may be involved in a romantic relationship which has not or has not yet progressed to marriage. Some live with friends or bring in a lodger to help share costs and reduce living expenses. Others are in formal house share agreements for reasons of convenience, such as students who need a term time address close to their place of study.


Cohabitation agreements are suitable in all of these cases. They are also invaluable for adult children living with their parents or for an unmarried couple who have started a family and require legal protection to guard against a future relationship breakdown.


What is a cohabitation agreement?


A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding document which governs the terms and conditions upon which people who are not married will live together in a shared property. Each document is bespoke to the needs of the property's occupants, but typically, it will cover property ownership, financial contributions, how maintenance of the property will be funded, whether a separate joint bank account will be required into which each party will pay a proportion of their income, and what will happen in the event that the relationship or house share ends.


It will usually detail any furniture or assets owned by each individual, particularly if they are intended to be used by all occupants, in order that ownership is clearly established to guard against disagreements arising should the house share end and any party want their property to be returned to them. 


A cohabitation agreement can even specify the manner in which household chores and DIY will be split between occupants, which tasks will be outsourced and who will be responsible for paying for them. It can further include provisions for child maintenance should an unmarried couple be cohabiting with their minor children. 


Why is a cohabitation agreement required?


Although not legally necessary, drafting a cohabitation agreement prior to taking up a house share is a very sensible move to protect the interests of all parties, to put in place formal dispute resolution mechanisms and to avoid a situation arising in which one person can be rendered homeless without notice.


It is a useful tool for establishing the ground rules by which all parties agree to abide and to help overcome any disagreements, protecting relationships and securing financial futures.


Donna Goodsell comments that when a house share is working well, it is mutually beneficial to all parties, however, the repercussions should a house share fail can be severe. In order to protect yourself, it is strongly recommended that a formal cohabitation agreement is drafted prior to taking up residence with someone to whom you are not married.

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