Q: I live with my six year old in the house her father and I bought together nine years ago. Her father moved out eighteen months ago to live with a woman he’d met on a bachelor holiday. I didn’t formally end the relationship as I always hoped he would get bored and come back to us.
He continued to pay half the mortgage and I continued to work and pay the other half. I’ve been paying all the bills and he paid voluntary maintenance for our daughter. Then a few months ago I received a solicitor’s letter saying he was charging me “occupational rent”. I ignored the letter. Now he’s stopped paying maintenance and is threatening to take me to the small claims court. He wants back payments of this “occupational rent” from when he left. What does it mean?
A: If two people buy a property together and one of them later moves out, in law the liabilities continue jointly but mortgages are joint and several. This means each party remains liable for the whole of the mortgage payments, regardless of who actually lives in the property.
However, if one party has sole use of the property and the other has no use of it, then it could be argued that this is an unfair balance. So, using the concept of “occupational rent”, the person not living at the property can effectively get the resident party to pay their share of the outgoings through a notional rent.
You should make an appointment to see a solicitor as soon as possible to get advice about the way forward. And if you enter into another relationship in the future that involves co-habitation, it would advisable to ask your solicitor to set up a Co-habitation Agreement that clearly sets out each party’s financial responsibilities and which is enforceable in the event that the relationship breaks down
Article October 2019