One third of cohabitants unaware of legal rights, says study

A worrying study has revealed that a third of cohabitants believe that they have the same legal rights as a married couple.

The research, published by YouGov, also found that just 14 per cent of cohabitants surveyed bought their home as tenants in common.

Despite the number of cohabiting couples growing at an alarming rate (doubling between 1996 and 2016), the study highlights the lack of legal protection cohabitees actually have in the event of separation or death.

In fact, 76 per cent of those surveyed had not even heard of a cohabitation agreement.

The agreement can protect a couple from unnecessary cost and litigation should their cohabitation break down, by clearly stipulating how assets will be split.

Around 35 per cent were unaware that, without such agreement, a property owned beneficially by joint tenants would be typically split 50:50, regardless of how much each has contributed.

Likewise, almost 60 per cent were unaware that if they are beneficial joint tenants their share will automatically pass to the surviving cohabitee despite what their will says.

Francesca Flood, Solicitor at Carter Lemon Camerons, says: “Cohabitation agreements can, however, be challenged on ordinary contractual principals, such as fraud, duress, undue influence, misrepresentation and human error. To avoid challenge at a later date, it should therefore be drawn up by a solicitor with both parties having sought independent legal advice.”

At Carter Lemon Camerons we understand that the breakdown of a relationship is never easy, and that trying to get to grips with the legal formalities while dealing with complex emotions can be confusing and upsetting. For advice on any stage of the process, please contact Chris Corney or Francesca Flood.