In today’s times more couples are committing to home ownership before committing to marriage. But there are some special considerations involved with buying a home for an unmarried couple and couples should be aware of their rights in the event that something goes wrong.

Most importantly, it is essential to register the house in the names of both parties.

Furthermore, same or opposite sex couples buying a home together should conclude a domestic partnership agreement that would protect both parties in the event of a breakup, dealing with such aspects as who should contribute to maintenance of the property, payment of rates and mortgage costs, etc, and how to share the fruits should the relationship come to an end. The agreement should spell out, e.g., details about how much each partner will contribute to the down payment, what percentage of each person’s income should be put toward the mortgage and who will pay for other expenses like repairs and remodeling. Provision should also be made for adjusting the contributions if and when the relationship ends.

It is best to give advice to couples to discuss their options when things are going well, since that is when they are more likely to be fair and considerate. The domestic partnership agreement should provide for a buy-sell clause that includes what will happen if one partner wants to remain in the house, and how they will determine the market value of their home in case they go their separate ways.

In the event of a deadlock, the agreement could compel the parties to sell the house to a third party, enabling them to split up the assets in a more reasonable way.

- By Roslyn Lerena ( Candidate Attorney)

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