Unmarried couples frequently intermingle their property whilst love still blooms, but sorting out who owns what after separation can pose a serious challenge. That was certainly so in a case, recently reviewed by Stuart Barton, of a former couple who between them owned two former council houses when their relationship ended in acrimony.
During their relationship, which lasted more than 25 years, the couple exercised their right to buy their respective council houses. After encountering financial difficulties, the man had transferred his former home into the woman’s name with the result that she became the sole registered owner of both properties. The former couple failed to reach agreement on a fair division of property following the end of their relationship, and the dispute came before a judge for resolution.
In ruling on the matter, the judge found that the woman held her former council home on trust for herself and the man equally. A trust deed to that effect had recently been located and held sway.
The property was no longer required as a family home for the former couple’s children, who had reached adulthood. The judge directed that the property should be sold and the proceeds divided equally between the pair.
In respect of the man’s former council home, the judge found that the woman held it on trust for him absolutely. Neither of them lived in the house during the relationship and, as an investment property, it had been let out to tenants. Following its transfer into the woman’s name, the man had retained control over it and discharged the mortgage from the tenants’ rent. The man being the sole beneficial owner of the property, there was no basis on which its sale could be ordered.