Posted by Stephanie Doughty

TOLATA: Property claims for separating unmarried couples

It is a difficult time with the breakdown of a relationship especially for unmarried couples who are not protected by the same laws that apply to married couples.

The Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act (TOLATA) 1996 gives a Court the ability to assist in resolving property disputes that arise between unmarried couples.

Depending on how the property is legally owned will depend on how these matters are looked at:

The property is owned in joint names but there is no agreement as to how the property is split

The starting point is that the parties are entitled to an equal share. However, if there is a dispute the parties must prove that they had a different intention to an equal split when the property was purchased, or that the intentions changed during the relationship.

The property is owned in joint names and there is an agreement as to how the property is split

The Court will generally conclude in such circumstances that the property is owned in accordance with the express agreement however there are limited grounds in which they can be challenged.

The property is owned in one party’s name only

Generally, the law will determine that the person whose name the property is in owns it 100% however if this is disputed, the Court will look at whether the parties agreed that the person not registered would be entitled to a share.

In addition, to the Court making an order determining the share of the property each party owns, the Court can also assist by making such orders as:

  • an order forcing the sale of land or property
  • an order giving a party the right to gain access to the property when the other party refuses to leave
  • an order enabling third parties to recover their financial interest in a property owned by the separating couple.

If you are unsure of your options or would like assistance in pursuing a claim under TOLATA further, please contact Stephanie Doughty at Hindle Campbell Law by email at stephanie.doughty@hindle-campbell.co.uk or by telephone on 0191 296 1777.