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What happens to jointly owned property when cohabitation ends?
16 Feb 2021

Separation is never easy, but if you and your former partner own property together, the situation can be even more complicated. 

If you have been living with a partner, but you are not married, the legal term is ‘cohabitation’. When cohabitees separate, they are not afforded the same protections in law as married couples who are getting divorced. This can be difficult, as, for many cohabiting couples, there is little difference in practical terms.

Jarna Rahman, associate and head of the conveyancing department at FBC Manby Bowdler, along with Helen Hanson, an associate in the family team, take a look at what happens to property when you separate from a partner you have been living with.

Do I need to move out of our home?

If you own your home and you are named on the title deeds, you have the right to stay in the property. However, you will need to decide between you who will remain in your home and how much will need to be paid to the other person on them vacating the property, or if you wish to sell it, how the proceeds of sale will be divided between you will very much depend on the way the property is jointly owned and how the ownership has been recorded on the documents stored with the Land Registry when the purchase took place.

What happens if we want to sell the property?

If you and your partner decide to sell your home, the process is reasonably straightforward. You can sell the property and divide the profits in accordance with your respective shares after paying off any existing mortgage and costs of sale.

What if one partner wishes to stay in the property?

If one partner wants to stay in the property, they may be able to buy their partner’s share in the property. You should firstly seek advice from a family law specialist with regards to the proposed buy out to ensure that it is fair and reasonable taking into account all relevant factors. Thereafter, you should seek assistance from an experienced mortgage broker as lenders will require evidence that you can afford the mortgage on your own. You will then need the assistance of a property solicitor to transfer ownership.

What happens if we cannot agree on what is to happen to our home?

If you and your former partner are unable to come to an agreement about what is to happen to your home, you should seek advice from a family law specialist who may suggest mediation to help you come to an agreement. If mediation is unsuccessful or not suitable, you can ask the courts to decide what will happen to the property. Typically, the court will divide the property's value between the two of you based on the shares you are entitled to.

What if we have children?

If you have children under the age of 18, it is possible to ask the court to delay selling the property until your youngest child turns 18. Once again, you should seek advice from a family law specialist if this is a relevant factor for you.

If I move out, do I still need to pay the mortgage?

If both parties are named on the mortgage, you are both responsible for continuing to make mortgage payments - even when one party moves out but there may be circumstances where this can be avoided. A family law specialist can advise as to the options available

We understand how difficult separation can be, so if you need legal advice, please get in touch with Helen Hanson on 01527 588961 or by email at

For enquiries on residential conveyancing please contact Jarna Rahman on 01902 392481or by email at

Meet Helen Hanson

Meet Jarna Rahman