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If you share home ownership with an ex, an important decision to make is what to do about this. Do you both continue living there, with nothing changing? Does someone move out and the other takes on full ownership and potentially full payment? What rights do you have if you can’t agree on what to do? This quick guide aims to provide the answers.
Option 1: Changing the Joint Home Ownership Agreement
Your joint ownership will be either a joint tenancy or a tenancy in common. Though both state you own the house jointly, the main difference is what happens to the house if one of you were to die. In a joint tenancy agreement, the deceased ownership rights would transfer to the other owner, giving them full home ownership. This is always the case, even if stated otherwise in their will. However, with a tenancy in common, the deceased ownership rights could be transferred to someone else.
If you currently have a joint tenancy, but for example, your ex wanted to move out for good, it may be beneficial to become tenants in common. This can be done by having your ex give you a written notice of severance, giving you, in effect, full rights to the house. This would also allow someone else (such as a new partner) to become a joint house owner with you. If you are unsure which ownership agreement you have, you can find out by contacting or searching through the Land Registry. If your house has a tenancy in common agreement, the phrase ‘Form A restriction’ will appear in the ownership information. If your house is not registered, a quick call to your solicitor or mortgage provider should give you your answer.
Option 2: Buy Out
If you want to own the house fully and as soon as possible, you could buy your ex’s home ownership rights, making you the legal owner. This can be trickier if you also have a joint mortgage, as your lender may only agree if they think you can make the repayments. Taking out another mortgage is a potential option, though it is important to consider the further strain this will put on your income and resources.
Option 3: Selling the House
This option allows you split the proceeds from the sale and both use the raised money for desired uses. For example, you may be able to buy a new house with your share of the sale.
Option 4: Transfer part of the houses value
As part of the settlement, your ex may agree give up a share of their ownership. They would still have a claim to the house, albeit a smaller one, giving you greater control over the house. If you ever sold the house they would receive a cut of its selling price. If you’re the one giving up a share, it can mean reduced property payments. When you’ve agreed an option with your ex, you will then need to get a consent order to make the agreement legally binding. This outlines your agreement and discusses how assets such as savings and investments will be divided. It is then up to the court to approve. Your solicitor will be able to create a consent order for you.
If you can’t decide what to do you may have to go to court. The judge will decide a property order which can be of various forms;
Postponed sale of the house (until for example, your children grow up or you remarry)
Transferred interest in the house (with payment to the seller)
Transferred interest in the house (without payment)
The option the court decides will depend on factors such as marriage duration, your ages, marriage contributions, pensions, financial resources and childcare. When it comes to joint ownership and divorce, there are various routes to take. Ensure you talk through your preferred option with your solicitor and ex, hopefully reaching an agreement.