With more and more couples choosing not to marry or to register as civil partners, preferring instead to share a life and a home together an agreement setting out each person’s rights and obligations in respect of the shared home for example is useful particularly where one party is moving into a property already owned by the other. Such agreements can deal with how the living costs are met and how any assets acquired together during the relationship/cohabitation are disposed of in the event of a separation.

A cohabitation contract/living together agreement freely entered into (with the benefit of legal advice) and where the parties intended to be legally bound by its terms may well be enforceable by the courts (provided there is no provision for or reference to providing sexual services: Sutton v Mischon De Reya and Gawor & Co (2003) FLR 2004, High Court ; and should be prepared as a deed in order for it to be binding.

The agreement should deal with who owns the property in which the couple are to live and how any mortgage repayments are to be funded. Where the property is held in only one or their names the couple need to consider whether contributions by the other towards the mortgage or indeed towards the cost of any major repairs will enable the non-owning partner to acquire a share in the property and if so the proposed share (or the basis or formula for calculating such share) should be set out. Similarly, the non-owning partner may make capital contributions to the property in terms of funding the cost of extensive work of renovation or refurbishment or potentially the cost of the building of an extension, or may simply choose to invest capital to reduce the mortgage owing on the property and that eventuality should be covered to reflect their possible “buying into” the property.