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Buying a home with a partner or friend – what to watch for

Buying with your partner or a group of friends could help raise a bigger deposit and get you on the housing ladder but remember you could be responsible for the full mortgage if someone defaults - read our guide to find out what to look out for

Buying with a partner

How many people can jointly own a property and what rights do they have?

  • Up to four people can jointly be registered as legal co-owners of a property
  • Joint owners have a legal right to stay in their home unless a court order rules otherwise
  • If one of the owners wants to sell the property or take a loan out against its value all of the owners have to give their consent, unless a court order rules otherwise

What are the different options for joint ownership?

There are joint tenancies, which are favoured by married couples and people in civil partnerships. And there is tenancy in common, which is favoured by groups of friends or relatives who are buying together.

What does joint tenancy mean?

  • If one of the joint tenants dies the property immediately passes to the other owner. This means individual owners can’t pass what they consider ‘their share’ of the property to a beneficiary in their will. Unless the co-owners are married or in a civil partnership, inheritance tax may still be payable.
  • Joint tenants must act as one in the eyes of the law. So, individual tenants would not have the option of only mortgaging their share of the property, for example. All of the tenants would have to take out a joint mortgage

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I’ve lived with my partner for years but we’re not married, we’re not joint tenants and only one of us owns the property – do we both have a claim on the property?

  • Probably not – if you’re not married the law usually doesn’t give you any claim on your partner’s money or assets but in some cases, if you have contributed to the purchase price or mortgage costs or made contributions to the upkeep of the property, a Court may find you have acquired an interest in its value
  • Similarly, if you are the owner of the property but rely on contributions to mortgage payments and utility bills from your partner (who is not a joint tenant and not married to you), he or she has no legal obligation to make those contributions and could legally stop whenever they want
  • To get around this you should seek legal advice about drawing up a legally binding cohabitation agreement
  • You can also draw up a deed of trust with a power of sale, setting out the circumstances in which the property should be sold and what would happen to the proceeds

Transfer of ownership into joint names

If you already own a home and then marry, you might then want to divide ownership between you by doing a transfer of ownership. The simplest way to do this is as a gift, since no money changes hands and there are no taxes to pay. Your spouse/civil partner is simply added to the title deeds as a joint tenant so you own the property jointly between you.

Alternatively, you can do a ‘transfer of equity’ in which your partner buys a share (typically 50%) of the property’s value. Note that the partner might have to pay stamp duty if the value of their share (equity plus mortgage taken on) is over £125,000. You’ll also need to pay a solicitor to handle the process.

What does tenancy in common mean?

  • Up to four people can be tenants in common for an individual property. This is a popular choice for friends or relatives who are buying together
  • Tenants in common don’t have to own equal shares of the property
  • They can each act individually, which means they can leave it to a beneficiary in their will. While in theory they have the option of mortgaging their share of the property, in reality finding a lender willing to lend in these circumstances would be difficult because the lender wouldn’t be able to enforce a sale if the mortgager defaulted

Can tenants in common take out a joint mortgage?

Yes, most lenders will allow up to four applicants to take out a joint mortgage. But when they are deciding the size of your mortgage they will usually only take into account the incomes of the two people who are paid most

What happens if I’m a joint tenant or a tenant in common and the other tenants stop meeting the mortgage payments?

  • A mortgage lender will always insist that borrowers are ‘jointly and severally’ liable. This means that if one of you stops paying his or her part of the mortgage the other (or others) will have to pay the full amount.
  • To avoid this, sit down and talk about what your plans are. Perhaps one of you wants to move in with a partner eventually, or maybe one of you has to move around with work and it wouldn’t be realistic to enter into a long-term legal arrangement and commitment
  • Each of you should seek separate independent legal advice and always draw up a legal agreement, called a declaration of trust, which establishes when and how the property can be sold and how much notice needs to be given if one of you decides to end the arrangement, whether one or more of you  has the right of first refusal to buy the share of the owner who wants to leave, and how the net sale proceeds should be divided up

This all sounds a bit risky – what are the alternatives to joint ownership?

  • Save, save and keep saving so you can afford the deposit for a mortgage alone
  • Shared ownership allows you to partly own a property without having to involve your friends or loved ones
  • The Government’s Help to Buy scheme provides loans to homebuyers, which are interest free for the first five years

And what if I do want to pursue a joint ownership – what next?

Speak to your solicitor or conveyancer dealing with the purchase of your home. They can help talk through the above options with you.

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Leave a comment (43)* Required

  1. Linda HeathLinda Heath

    My daughter and myself has a mortage together(nearly paid for) I live in the house with my very disabled partner. My daughter and myself pay the mortage. The heating has gone wrong, who is liable for the bill in which this is going to cost please?

  2. AnneAnne

    If we have a joint ownership of house and one person has to go into a home with care can l stay in the property or do l have to sell to help pay fees for home we are married

  3. Diane HollisDiane Hollis

    I am asking on behalf of a friend they were together fir 36yrs but not married he died and left her the house the land registry changed the name in the deeds now sge wishes to sell and get a smaller place is there anything she must do when it s sold it do the new owners have the deeds in the new owners name please advise

  4. NafeeceNafeece

    I am planning on setting up a life time ISA to help purchase my first home for myself and my family. I am in full time employed and will be the sole contributor toward the deposit as well being the main person responsible for paying the mortgage each month.
    My partner is a not currently in employment due to family circumstance and is classed as a home-person/house-wife so with this being the case and her not employment would mortgage lenders allow us to apply for a joint mortgage together or would it be better for me to apply as a sole buyer?

  5. CstherineCstherine

    What is SDLT when 2 people buying as joint tenants but one already has a house. Do we get full first residence relief, is it split or do we have to pay the 3%?

  6. beverley roylebeverley royle

    my son buy house with is grifind Park rent and buy 1y ago they he moved out now they got little boys he lose is job he live with is mum dad but is grfind say you haif to bill and mortgage but he not got it make him ill

  7. A FernandesA Fernandes

    I owe a shared ownership property. We are a coupled married for over 20 years. We decided to by additional shares in my wife name with her paying her part of the mortgage. Would like to know if this is possible

  8. ReenaReena

    My husband and I are planning to buy a house, I am putting down 16% deposit and he is putting down 4%. The house will be in his name only. as he will be paying for the mortgage. Is there any option to make sure that I don’t miss out on anything if just incase, us don’t work out?

  9. CarolCarol

    I would like to enter into a tenants in common agreement with my partner when buying a property. Please can you confirm if my name needs to be on the mortgage? The house we wish to buy is £375,000 and we will be putting down a £185,000 deposit. We want a tenants in common agreement so my partner will own 70% and I will own 30%. Can he apply for the mortgage solely in his name?

  10. AdamAdam

    My ex partner saved a 10% deposit of £15,000 So we could by a house. The house is soley in my name as she was not working at the time and I am in full time employment. The £15,000 was transfered to my bank, and I have paid all bills and mortgage payments for a year whilst my ex partner lived at the property. No agreement was drawn up regarding the deposit. Now that we have split my ex partner has said she wants £25,000 due to work that was done in the house (although we both contributed financially and physically to house renovations).
    My question is, where do I stand legally in terms of paying back the deposit to my ex? Could I be forced by a court to sell my home if we disagree on how much and when it can be paid back?

    • HomeOwners AllianceHomeOwners Alliance

      Hello Adam, we can’t give legal advice over the internet. If you’d like to join us as a member, we can set up a call for you with a lawyer. Joining is easy, just click here.

  11. susansusan

    My husband and i inherited my parents home once we paid out my brothers share of the property in 2015. My husband and I took on the property as tenants in common as we were only 55 yrs old with 2 grown up children. We had wills drawn up to stipulate that the surviving spouse would have ownership until death. We also both stated our share of the home should go to our 2 children equally. Now we wonder if this is going to mean that this will be a costly affair for our 2 children once we have both died. Should we have got it as joint tenants and if so can we easily do this.

  12. WilmaWilma

    My husband has extended our joint mortgage on our home without me being involved,is this legal?

  13. AndyAndy

    My partner and I and in the process of buying a house. She has a very large cash sum to put towards the house, but we are just shy of the amount we need by around 50k.

    My question is, can I take out a mortgage for this amount to help with the purchase, and if so does it complicate things in terms of solicitors?

    Who would be the best person to speak to regarding this?


  14. JohnJohn

    Hi I wish to purchase a house with my son he will need a mortgage up to the tune of 66% of the total value and I would be contributing the other 33%. My question is how can I protect my investment if all goes wrong on the repayment front. I have had a brief conversation with a leading high st bank and I was informed that they would only allow my sons name would be on the deeds, this would leave me totally unprotected.

  15. NadiaNadia

    Hi, together with my partner we are buying a house to which my partner is putting most of deposit. We will both be paying equally for the mortgage and expenses. However we are still both married to other people, but going through a divorce and I am at a stage where my financial order has been approved by courts but my partners financial order hasn’t even been yet agreed with his wife, hence not sent to courts.
    My question is: if we decide for joint tenancy with each one to own equal share, what happens to the other share should one of us die? Would the other share still pass over to the second person on the joint tenancy or would our common law partners be entitled to the share if the decree absolute should not be reached by that point?
    We are also thinking about drawing up a cohabitation agreement between us.
    I really appreciate your advice.

    • AKerrAKerr

      Hi Nadia, You’ll be using a conveyancing solicitor to secure your new house purchase so put this question to them. You’re paying for a legal service so you should make full use of that. If you need a second opinion come back to us – members get a free legal call which can be arranged the same day and people often use it to check their understanding of more complicated situations which touch on inheritance and tax and to explore different options. Good luck with your new home. We’re here if you need us again. Angela

  16. AlisonAlison

    I am living with my partner in his house & we have talked about me buying into his property so I feel it is also mine.  He purchased it 15 years ago. He is asking me to pay half of the current value not the purchase value 15 years ago. I assume I should only pay half what he paid for it. Who is correct?

    • AKerrAKerr

      Thanks Alison. There is no right or wrong. Your partner can decide at what point in time the valuation is taken if he owns the property. This is a difficult situation though as you don’t obviously want to fall out with each other but need to know the arrangement you reach is fair for both of you. I can see the financial sense in your partner wanting to base the purchase price on today’s valuation and the financial sense from your perspective in wanting to pay the value from 15 years ago. There is a lot to think about and no doubt various options for handling your buying into the property e.g. by owning as tenants in common you can formally agree exactly what share of the property you each own by getting the solicitor to draw up a ‘deed of trust’ to avoid disagreements later. In the first instance you should both seek legal advice, independently of each other, to explore the options and then draw up an agreement.
      If you want to speak to a lawyer quickly for a steer on your options and don’t have one, you can join us and we can arrange this within a day.

  17. RoseRose

    Myself and a group of friends purchased a property together I put 40% along with another friend who put in 50% and the other 10% the other two did not make a contribution. We all are on the conveyance as beneficiary joint tenants.

    I am worried now that the two that did not make a contribution will claim some money from the sale of the house as two of us want to sell the property. I don’t know how to get around this issue.

    please advise me of what to do


  18. PhilPhil

    Hi, my girlfriend is going to move in with me this year.
    She’s wants me to put her name on my mortgage.
    As I already have a decent amount of equity in the house.
    if we were to split up would she be entitled to half of any equity in the house ?.
    Or only what she’s has contributed to the mortgage ?.

    thanks phil

  19. Michael WilliamsMichael Williams

    My wife has contributed towards the deposit for the house where we reside. I have taken the mortgage in my name and the pay mortgage alone since we moved in. She is now demanding that I add her name to the mortgage as a co-owner. I am not willing to do so. I have decided to pay her whatever she is due. This is bringing misunderstanding into the marriage. The question is, she entitle to have her name as a joint owner of the house?

  20. TeresaTeresa

    My ex partner bought a house in 2012, at the time we had been together for a long time and he made me joint owner, there is no mortgage on the property but I had lent him 16,000 towards the purchase costs. Shortly after we went our separate ways, I moved back to my own mortgaged property and he remained in the jointly owned house. Now I would like to transfer the property back into his name as sole owner, am I or is he liable to gift tax.

    Thanks any advice would be helpful

  21. AkhonaAkhona

    What if I have a joint mortgage with a relative but when I want my own house do I get it or have to wait till that other joint mortgage paid finish??

    • Sophie KhanSophie Khan

      Dear Akhona,

      If you are in a joint mortgage arrangement and then decide to own your own home separately then depending on your financial circumstances you would need to sell your jointly owned property and discharge the mortgage already in place. If you can afford to keep it and buy a new place then you would need to get a new mortgage. If you would like to find out more about your options you can seek expert fee free mortgage advice from: London & Country Mortgage Advisors

      Wish you well.

      Kind regards,

      HomeOwners Alliance Team

  22. Bethany phillipsBethany phillips

    Hi, me and my partner are looking to rent but not sure whether it would benefit us to get a joint mortgage, just a general enquirer really

  23. TracyTracy

    A friend and I are looking to buy a property together she has a larger deposit and therefore will have a greater share in the property. So how would the cost of the maintenance be split on the property, eg 70/30 as the ownership or 50/50 as we’re both living equally?

  24. PaulaPaula

    I was in mental torment when I left my family home. The house is in my name and my ex partner. The kid still live there. I don’t want to return to the property. However, what are my legal rights in terms of the sale of the property in 5/10 years time? I give a good financial monthly allowance so that my younger child is able to live there. Do my legal rights diminish after a certain time passes? Thank you I would like to see this property as my investment (it says this in my will)

  25. SuzanneSuzanne

    My partner and I are planning to buy a house together with a friend who would put in around a third of the money. We will all live at the property and would not need a mortgage.
    My question as we are all getting older what would happen if any one of us had to go into a care home at some stage. Would we have to sell the house to pay for the fees or would we be able to live in the house until our demise and then when it is sold any care home fees will then be paid ?
    Thank you for any advice !

  26. AkAk

    I bought a house with my dad and brother over 10 years ago so , I moved out for work and Other purposes and had to get someone to move into my part who was also paying my part of the mortgage. Now I’m married and I want to buy another property with my wife. But it’s difficult to get one in terms of affordability as I am not seen as first time buyer and also the bank refuse to consider that I only pay part of the mortgage. My dad is refusing to sell the property or buy my part he still lives there with my part still rented.i don’t want to my Dad to court or force him but this is really affecting me from getting a property of my own.

  27. heatherheather

    I’m currently living in a council house with my partner and our three children my partner works full time and I’m a stay at home parent. My partners name is the only one on the tenancy, he’s now applied to buy the house from the council which they have agreed to he just has to arrange the mortgage.
    Would I be allowed to be named as a joint owner as I don’t work and won’t be able to work for a while as I’m now pregnant with our 4th baby?

  28. Daniel edwardsDaniel edwards

    Hi, I have my own mortgage for a property. I’m looking at buying a place with a partner, is it possible to have the two run simultaneously and rent out my property? (Obviously changing my mortgage to a rent to buy) or do I have to sell my house, or she get a place in order to keep my own mortgage?

  29. ElonaElona

    I have a partner and we want to buy a land it is possible that on the deed of absolute sale is in between of our names stated on that document even though we are not yet marriage?
    Thank you

  30. Terri annTerri ann

    If only living with partner and I’m not working can I be put on to a mortgage? Or do I also have to be working?

  31. KatherineKatherine

    I want put my Father on my mortgage so I can borrow more money, he is 60 is it possible?

  32. JessicaJessica

    Hi my partner of 2 years is in a joint owner ship with he’s friend , each own 50 percent what rights do each have .

  33. John DawsonJohn Dawson

    My estate is such that it will have to pay a considerable amount of inheritancen tax when I die. I am thinking of purchasing a second property, for use as a holiday retreat by myself and my family, and registering it as jointly owned by myself and two of my adult children as joint tenants. What would be the inheritance tax position if I died within 7 years of purchase or if I died after 7 years have elapsed? Would the IHT position be more advantageous if the property ownership was registered as tenants-in-common?

  34. Janette HowardJanette Howard

    I am thinking of selling my property but just wondered if I could sell half of it to a friend to allow me to have some cash in hand then rent the property out and we would both benefit, what are the implications of this as I do own the house outright.

  35. AnnieAnnie

    Hi Gareth,

    That’s a good question. It all depends what the deed of trust says.

    We have lawyers on hand if you want to join us.

    Good luck and let us know how you get on.

    HomeOwners Alliance Team

  36. GarethGareth

    Hi, I recently split up with my girl friend and we ‘own’ a house together.
    The mortgage is in my name and she is not involved in the deed to the house or have her name on the mortgage, we do however have a deed of trust.
    However from what I can gather from websites is that she only has claim to half the deposit and the value of the house, does she have any legal standing living in the house as I have been asked to move out and feel a little slighted that it seems I have been effectively kicked out of my own home.
    I could really do with finding out if she has any right to the house legally or if I can ask her to move out?



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