If you want to buy a property with someone or move in with them, we advise on all of the legal ramifications of doing so and the agreements that can be entered into.
What type of agreement can I have?
A Declaration of Trust is a formal agreement setting out how a property is held and what should happen in the event of separation. This is a flexible document that can record what is agreed about who owns the property and what is to happen if things go wrong. Many people enter into declarations of trust when buying a home with another person or if they are helping someone to buy a property. Such arrangements can arise in many situations, such as between cohabitants, family members, friends or business acquaintances.
It is also possible to enter into a document which goes beyond this and regulates other aspects of a couple’s financial relationship. These agreements are called ‘relationship agreements’ (often referred to as cohabitation agreements) and commonly include provisions regarding the payment of outgoings on the property, including who is responsible for the mortgage and other outgoings.
What are the benefits?
A dispute in court can lead to an uncertain outcome and the costs, both emotional and financial, may be substantial.
Many couples with a Declaration of Trust or a relationship agreement may be able to resolve the issues arising from their separation without involving the court at all. They may be better placed to deal with the issues arising from the breakdown of their relationship quickly, and cost effectively, and this can reduce stress at a difficult time.
Is it right for me?
Anyone purchasing a property or choosing to cohabit should carefully consider how they would like the beneficial ownership of the property to be held. It is advisable to agree and document the intentions at the outset as people’s motivations for co-owning, co-investing or sharing in properties can differ significantly.
It is always preferable to have a clear statement of intention at the time of purchase, although such a statement can be agreed after purchase, or on the happening of a certain event; such as someone moving in, or the birth of a child.
You should also consider seeking advice if you are planning to marry, form a civil partnership or have children as such events can alter the effect of agreements about property.
If there is going to be a lengthy period of separation before a property is sold it would be advisable to revise any existing agreement (or if no such agreement exists, have one drawn up) to take account of what will happen in the future and whether there should be any adjustment to the ownership of property in light of a change in circumstances.
How can we help?
Our family team have considerable experience in advising on Declarations of Trust and relationship agreements. They can assist with agreements between couples, friends or family members.
The wider firm can provide advice on all areas connected to relationship agreements and declarations of trust, including:
- Buying a property: our conveyancing team can help you if you are thinking of buying a house, including considering whether a Declaration of Trust is necessary.
- Wealth and tax planning: for some people, investing in property or helping someone to buy a property is part of their wider tax and wealth planning. Declarations of Trusts as well as Wills can record what should happen in the event of a person’s death, disability or incapacity and ensure that their finances are dealt with in accordance with their wishes. Our estate planning team can assist in relation to this.
- Commercial agreements: in circumstances where people are investing in property in the context of a business relationship, consideration should be given to whether a formal agreement is needed in relation to the ownership of the property. This could be by way of a Declaration of Trust or an alternative such as a Loan Agreement. Consideration should be given to factors such as whether the arrangement should be linked to or have security over the property, and whether interest should accrue. This is commonly thought of as a more commercial lending arrangement but can also be used in a variety of family or investment circumstances. Our commercial specialists can help.
If you would like to speak with a member of the team you can contact our family law solicitors on 020 3826 7550 or complete our enquiry form.