Q: I live with my partner. We are not married but we have a joint bank account and a joint mortgage, and we purchased our house as joint tenants. We also have equal savings offsetting our mortgage in the account. The big difference is that my partner earns almost twice as much as me and when we purchased the property, he put up most of the deposit. So, if we split up would the property be split equally, irrespective of who put up the most deposit? And would I be entitled to withdraw my half of the savings? Finally, would the fact that he pays a bigger proportion of the bills give him more entitlement?
A: If two people own a property together as joint tenants, then in almost all cases each person will be entitled to half of the equity in the property. This would not be the case though for couples who own property together as tenants in common, as they will normally have agreed at the outset how to share the equity and have had a Deed of Trust drawn up. On the other hand, if it is the case that tenants in common do not have a Deed of Trust, the starting point for a split would be 50/50 with the possibility of differing shares being negotiated if one party can show they have contributed to the property significantly more than the other.
In respect of your joint bank account, there is no supposition of a 50/50 split, so one party could effectively take all the money out of the account unless the account is set up so that both parties must sign for withdrawals. It would be a good idea for you to make an appointment to see a solicitor if you are considering a split, to ensure that you are aware of any grey areas that may be applicable to your particular circumstances.