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entitlement to property

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neathgirl | 20:26 Fri 07th Sep 2007 | Law
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hi wondering if anyone can give me any advice. my ex has sent me a solicitors letter today suggesting we attend mediation due to a property issue that we have with my current house.

the mortgage and deeds are in my name and she has never had her name on any of the bills (apart from the council tax) or contributed in any way to the up-keep of the house. I have supported her financially while she was at university for 3 years, she didnt work or contribute any money to the house during this time.

We have been split up for over a year, and it has only been these last few months that i have been able to stay at my own house where i am paying for the bills. I was not able to stay in the house during the time of the break up because of her unpredictable behaviour and she refused to accept that i no longer wanted to be with her. I was completely reasonable with her in all ways during the break up and even paid her bond money for her rented property she is living in now. i just wanted her out of my life because she was so controlling and mentally/physically abusive. Up until recently she was also harrassing me with emails and text messages.

She has left me in more than 15,000 in debt (due to me supporting her during her degree) and is now wanting money from me and trying to stake claim on the house.

Can anyone give me any advice about where i stand legally? and should i consult legal advice before attending mediation?

many thanks for your help.

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From the information you've supplied it would appear that there is nothing in which you have anything to mediate over. The property is solely yours. Your former partner, having made no contribution towards paying for it, or it's upkeep, has no claim on it.

The only caveat I would add to the above though is if the property was bought with the intention of you both sharing it to live in as a couple. If so, and especially now in Scotland, this could then constitute matrimonial property (even though there is no marriage) or, if a same-sex couple, partnership property. But, even if it does (and I'll look into the issue later today at work), it would simply be unfair (in view of all the circumstances) to award your former partner any share in your property. I'll get back to you later once I've had a more thorough check on the law - here and down south.
Question Author
ok thanks very much i really appreciate it.

I am posting this for my friend, but just thought it sounded corny if i said a friend of mine. Thought it was easier if i just said it was me.

In addition to what i have already posted my friend informs me that she also allowed her to have the majority of the contents of the house and has had to buy nearly new to replace the items. Having spoken to my friend today, I have also learned that as a couple they put down the deposit together as it was from the sale of a house they lived in previously, however the ex was on the mortgage, my friend was not but did contribute to the up-keep of the house and the bills and mortgage (even though she was not on the mortgage).

Sorry that this information wasnt posted yesterday some was an oversight on my behalf.

Many Thanks again, especially to you Stu Dent
If they put the deposit down as a couple and jointly ... this may alter the situation.

There , even though it seems unfair, a case of a trust issue.

Your friends' ex may be awarded a % share of the total value, all depending on her initial deposit contribution . Harsh I know, but the law is the law.

However, all expenses will be scrutinised, ie if she paid the council tax, food and maybe your rail card, so you could pay the bills... this will be taken into account.

Mediation is a good starting point, at least you are not being dragged into court...

Try to collate all bank staements and any other evidence of your financial support.

Keep us posted

Jo x
Question Author
thanks for that reply much appreciated.

will definitely keep u posted on what happens.

i think my friend has just had enough considering all the abuse she has had off this girl during the course of their relationship. personally, i think its harsh that she now seeks payment for her abuse of my friend.

just out of curiosity, if the ex couldnt prove she put money down as a deposit would it just be a case of her word against my friends?
If it was her word against his, then it would be for the courts to decide.

They would scrutinise any evidence to support her claim ie bank balances... withdrawals etc

If no proof then it may be tricky, but case law suggests that a constructive trust may be imposed, constructed from her actions...

It all depends on what, if anything she paid for in her time at the house.
Having looked at the issues in greater detail, and in consideration of the expanded facts, I rewrite my advice.

The caveat I mentioned does not apply to unregistered couples - only to those who have entered into marriage or civil partnership. My mistake! Unregistered couples (logically, of course), cannot acquire matrimonial or partnership property if they don't enter into either of those legal arrangements.

So your friend and her ex girlfriend are given a status only slightly above that of former flatmates, and have substantially inferior property rights to those who are divorcing or dissolving a civil partnership. That's the good news for your friend. She is the sole owner of the property and her former girlfriend has no right to it.

The downside is that since part of the price was paid for by the ex girlfriend, she is likely to be entitled to a share of it's value. How much? I would guess that whatever the share of the original investment was to the share of the property's value at the point of separation. So if A and B buy a flat and A pays 90% of the price and B the remaining 10%, then B is entitled to 10% of the property's valuation as it was on the date of separation. As happyjo has pointed out, a constructive trust would appear to exist or, in Scotland, grounds to sue under the law of unjustified enrichment.

But I would argue that this supposed right to 10% of the property's value would be offset against B not contributing anything else, living rent free, etc.

So should you agree to mediation? I can't really see how it would hurt and anecdotally I've heard that Judges frown on those who go to court without trying to resolve disputes.

But....
Unfortunately I can't see the relevance of your friend being out of pocket for expenses outwith the cost of paying the mortgage and utility bills. I could if they had entered into a civil partnership because then the court would be concerned with the aim of distributing the partnership property 'fairly' as happens with married couples who divorce. In those circumstances, your friend would benefit. But since I now realise that cohabitants cannot possibly have matrimonial or partnership property, I submit that a court would give no regard to 'fairness' when redistributing the assets owned by both., though there is a presumption that the furnishings should be shared equally. We have to think of these girls more as flatmates rather than as a 'couple' when it comes to dividing the property.

By trying to do the right thing and help the ex find and furnish her new home with furniture from their previous home, your friend has, in effect, gifted her share of the furniture to the ex. In view of this, mediation may be no bad thing for your friend. Hopefully what your friend has gifted and spent can be offset against the percentage she owes her ex from the valuation of the property they purchased together.....or did they? Might your friend argue that the money she was given to buy the property was nothing more than a loan that was repaid by your friend agreeing to pay all the bills? That would be one argument against the constructive trust/unjustified enrichment argument.

Any thoughts happyjo? The existence or non-existence of trust or enrichment is crucial.
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my intial reaction to your posts is WOW! .... I am so very glad that I posted this problem for my friend as it has been extremely useful in obtaining an unbiased perspective. You have both given me great answers and I am sure my friend will be very encouraged.

I think the whole situation can be quite intimidating to those of us not used to legal situations/events. It is quite stressful and has been so for my friend. Hopefully it will not go to court as my friend will be able to provide evidence of her funding her for 3 years.

I am extremely greatful to you both, I appreciate the lengths you have gone to, very much so.

I'll keep you posted as things develop. Again, thank you very much for your help 8-)

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