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Cohabitation - your rights

  • Living together without being married or being in a civil partnership means you do not have many rights around finances, property and children. Consider making a will and getting a cohabitation agreement to protect your interests.

    Renting a home together

    When both your names are on the tenancy agreement, you are equally responsible for the rent and any other tenancy conditions.

    If you split up and one of you wants to move out, you will need to talk to your landlord or lettings agency to change the tenancy agreement.

    Buying property together

    You could be joint tenants, where you own the whole property together, or tenants in common, where you each own a share in the property. Find out more about these terms on the GOV.UK website.

    You own the property together

    Having a cohabitation agreement already in place can make things easier if you split up. You will need to agree between you what happens to the property.

    If one of you dies, the other automatically inherits the property. This cannot be changed by your will.

    You each own a share in the property

    Ownership could be split equally, or one of you may own a larger share. You might agree this if they pay more of the deposit or mortgage.

    With tenants in common ownership, if you split up you will be entitled to your own share in the property.

    If your partner dies, you will not automatically inherit their share, unless they have left it to you in their will.

    If one person owns the property

    You will not usually have any rights to the property if you don’t own the property or a share in it, unless you can prove you have:

    • contributed to the deposit for the house or the mortgage payments, or
    • made a financial commitment, like paying for major work on the house, with the understanding that you would own a share of the house

    This means if you split up and you are not the owner you have no right to continue living in the property. And unless it’s left to you in their will, you won’t automatically inherit the property if your partner dies.

    If you agree that you should both have a share in the property, you can transfer the property into a joint tenancy. A solicitor can help you do this.

    Children

    The father only has parental responsibility if they are on the child’s birth certificate. Parental responsibility means they have a say in decisions about the child.

    For births registered before 1 December 2003 the father will not automatically have parental responsibility even if on the birth certificate.

    Law on parental responsibility

    Child support if you split up

    You have a legal obligation to provide child support if you split up. This applies even if you do not have parental responsibility. You can apply to the Child Support Agency for payments and a court can order the parent to pay.

    Find out more about parental responsibility

    Child or children from another relationship

    If your partner has a child or children from another relationship, you do not automatically have parental responsibility for them.

    Medical emergencies and death

    You will not be treated as next of kin if your partner becomes ill unless you and your partner have made a written agreement beforehand. This means you will not have automatic rights to know about their condition, or see them in hospital. You will not be able to plan their care, unless they have agreed this in writing.

    If you die, because your partner is not your next of kin, they will not have the right to make arrangements.

    Bank accounts

    If you die and you have separate bank accounts, your partner will not be legally able to access your account. Find out more on the Money Advice Service website.

    Pension access

    If you die, your state pension is not automatically passed on to your partner. Different rules apply to company and private pensions. Find out more on the Money Advice Service website.

    Tax benefits

    You and your partner do not have tax benefits as a couple.

    If you want to give assets, like a house or a large amount of money, to your partner you may have to pay tax.

    Cohabitation agreements and wills

    To make sure you and your partner’s interests are protected, you may want to consider getting a cohabitation agreement and making a will.

    Without a will your partner and their children will not automatically inherit from you. They will only be able to make a claim through court if:

    • you have been living together for 2 or more years, or
    • they were financially supported by you

    Find a solicitor to get help with cohabitation agreements and wills.