Q: My girlfriend came to stay over Christmas and we got on so well that I am tempted to ask her to move in with me. We haven’t however known each other long and I am worried what would happen if the relationship didn’t work out long term. Could she make a claim on my house?
A: You can have a solicitor draw up a co-habitation agreement to protect your interests once you have decided how you want things to be.
If you wish to remain the sole owner of the property and continue to pay the bills and mortgage your girlfriend would normally have no right to remain there if you asked her to leave. However, as there ways other than financial contribution that can constitute a ‘beneficial interest’ you should speak to a Solicitor specialising in family law and cohabitation before doing anything.
If in the future you wanted your girlfriend to have a share in the property you could specify what percentage that would be. Or you may want to own the house with her as ‘joint tenants’, whereby if one of you dies the other automatically inherits the house. Alternatively you could own the house as tenants in common, where each of you owns a specified share of the house, something you may prefer if you have contributed the greater share. Whatever you decide, you should ensure that your co-habitation agreement clearly reflects that.
You may also need to draw up a Deed of Trust setting out your rights to the property and what should happen if you split up. Similarly you should draw up a Will clearly stating what you want to happen when either of you dies.