As of February 2018, the rules on the whole matter are in one way quite defined, but in another open to interpretation, and the decision as to whether you challenge this thru the courts very much depends on how deep your pockets are.
Very often as a relationship goes on, one or other partners input to the overall, can, and does change, and to this end, It is vitally important that from the outset you protect yourself from people who would take advantage of the situation they find themselves in when the relationship breaks down.
Like millions before me, I feel I need to echo a warning to people who fall in love and don’t think about the black and white facts regarding the monetary side of the undertaking. I would stress, this is totally different if children are involved, but in my case, they were not.
Back in 1994, my ex moved in and lived with me in my flat in Bexhill. At that time, I was working as an IT Contractor in the City, and my life was on the up. She, on the other hand, whilst having many qualifications, and being possibly one of the cleverest people I knew, was working part-time in a care home, as she had been off traveling around the world for the last 2 to 3 years and had little or no money.
Through my work in the City, an opportunity came my way via the company I was working for, to provide them with skilled IT Contractors, and with my contacts and links within the City I started investigating how this could be turned into a business, and very soon this turned in to the idea of starting up an I.T. recruitment company…
I asked my ex if she would be interested in getting the company up and running, which would involve the usual process of buying a company and registering it. From the outset, there were never any big sums of money to be made I think it would be approx. £5 p/h profit from one contractor we had. In truth, after the initial setup, this worked out at approximately a day a month’s work for her.
In 1995, I decided that I needed to be nearer to London, as the commuting was killing me, and a property became available in Tunbridge Wells.
At the time of buying the property, which was being brought in my sole name, my ex came to me a said that “she needed to be part of all this”… Being a very trusting person, I didn’t really know the nuts and bolts of all that, and she qualified it by saying that “there would never be an issue as it was black and white as to who was paying for everything”…, and it was…, me!..
It was at that point where I unknowingly made several serious mistakes.
Firstly, I let her deal exclusively with the solicitor, and secondly, I believed everything she had told me to be the truth. My naivety about legal matters was breathtakingly exposed, and the property was brought as Joint Tenancy. I never understood the ramifications of this until much, much later.
The property was purchased, with me paying the deposit along with all the solicitor's bills., the lot!. The mortgage was taken out based on my earnings.
Over the next 8 years, I paid all the mortgage payments, along with several “lump sum” payments to eventually buy the property outright in 2002. During that time, I also paid for 95% of all the work that was done on the property as well as 95% of the monthly utility bills, and indeed that was the case throughout our whole time together.
Fortunately, I can prove all this, as I have every bank statement, and bill going back to 1985!, I’m a bit of a hoarder...
Now, you may be asking yourself, why was my ex not paying more..?.
My understanding was that she was only earning £7k per year from our little recruitment business, although I guess in hindsight, that is an enormous amount of money for 1 day a month’s work, but stupidly my focus was not on what she was up to, my focus was on a 10hr day in the City and getting the mortgage paid off.., after all, as far as I was concerned, I was the only one paying it off, it was my property, and this was a “given” throughout the relationship.., the question never came up about who was paying for everything..
She, on the face of it, had no intention of getting a full-time job and decided in 1998 that she didn’t want to continue the recruitment business as she was bored with it, but she said that she would keep doing the company books as it involved little or no effort each month.
At the time I thought that was very decent of her, as by then she was also handling my salary.
Over the next few years, she did a couple of part-time jobs, but none of the income from that came my way., I had no idea what she was earning., she seemed happy, and I was fine with that.
During this time, she also did bits of work on the property. She tiled the bathroom and did some pulling down of old lathe and plaster walls. Initially, she seemed to be getting on with various bits while I was at work, but as our relationship went on, the work she seemed to be doing got less and less., many days I would come home from London to find nothing had happened, and she had gone off somewhere for the day…
Now, this comes back to what happens when people are in relationships. If you are very much in love with each other, it is very unlikely that one or the other partner is looking over their shoulder to see what the other one is up to all the time. There is a massive element of trust going on, and I trusted her 100%. I was not the kind of person to be snooping into another person’s business.
I just trusted her, and as far as I was concerned she was whiter than white.
In 2000, she decided that she would focus on obtaining some more qualifications, and she decided that she wanted to get Post Graduate qualification in Lecturing. This was a 3-year course that was done largely online. While this was going on, she took on some part-time lecturing work at a local college, I think it was a couple of half days a week, for which she was getting paid.
As you will guess here, for her to do this, someone had to keep paying the bills and keep a roof over her head. Again, during this time, she made no effort to pay for anything. I can only recall one occasion when I brought a camcorder and a DVD writer for the house that she offered to pay for half of it., that is the only time I can ever recall.
In 2003 she went on a three-week holiday to the Galapagos Islands. On that holiday she met someone with whom she had an affair.
When she came back, I knew something was very wrong, and she then proceeded to mess me about for 6 months while I ended up sleeping in the spare room. I eventually caught her with this bloke in a guest house near Canterbury, after she had told me she was meeting up with friends for Christmas and the New Year.
A very, very sad time for all, and I was demolished by the whole thing.
I knew exactly what was going on I’d known from right back when she was on her holiday, but I had refused to believe it all and I knew that the man in the “holiday” romance had no intention of running off with her, even though she hadn’t worked it all out herself. I’d played my best poker face for 6 months hoping that there was some way I could rescue this.
At the time, I had a massive conflict to deal with, as she, in effect, had lost it all.., our life together was about to end, and she had no money and would be on her own. Obviously, I was angry, but this was someone I loved her dearly and I didn’t want her to get hurt anymore.
Again, another very daft move here, but we had briefly talked about the property, and she has said that as far as she was concerned, it was mine, as I had paid for everything… I, in turn, wanted her to be able to make a new start in life, so I offered her nearly £20k, made up of all the money I had, and £7k worth of shares that were being held by her mother.
She thanked me and moved out to live with her brother.
Over the years from 2003 to 2009, I constantly tried to meet up with her, as we needed to get the property sorted out officially. She kept moving, which didn’t help, and I eventually ended up sending her letters via registered post just so I knew she was getting them!.. I even had to hire a Private Investigator to find her, following her last move, as I had no idea where she was.
Despite all this, there was no animosity between us., she was leading a new life now, and I didn’t figure in it anymore., which was fine, but I needed matters sorted.
I heard thru a friend of a friend in 2009 that she was getting married, so I again tried contacting her, and amazingly she rang me!... I said that we needed to get the property sorted, and within seconds I sensed that she had changed.
Her first statement was that she wasn’t after half… This started alarm bells ringing for me. She also said something that really stuck with me, she said that she had “given me nine years of her life”. I’m thinking here, so what have I given you…?, a free roof over you head for 10 years, free food, free meals out every week at a restaurant, free holidays, 2-3 cars, and £20k to help you start again… Then add to that the income that she was enjoying by virtue of the work I generated in London… you couldn’t make it up..!
The conversation was left with her agreeing to contact me telling me how much she wanted…
I had always believed that as long as I could prove what I had paid into it all, there would never be any issues, so what could go wrong...?, I foolishly never took any professional advice as I thought it would be easy to resolve.
Two months after her phone call I had two massive letters from her solicitor telling me to sell up the property, and move out, as she wanted half.
As you can imagine, this knocked me off my feet... She was asking for half of a property that she had lived in “rent free” for nine years, and of which she had not paid a penny towards the mortgage.
My first port of call was to get a solicitor involved, as we needed to get this sorted.. From my side, I could prove beyond any doubt that I had paid for everything and we needed to invoke this, and I needed to get my house back, 100% in my name…
The solicitor had some bad news for me… He said that under UK law, it didn’t matter one iota who paid for what, as far as the legal position was concerned, she was jointly on the deeds of the property and that was that!... I was devastated. I had put thousands and thousands of pounds into the property along with all my savings, all the profits from the sale of my flat in Bexhill, and 10 years of commuting up to London to make all this possible and I just lost half of it!
At the time when this was happening, I had nearly no income. I was doing a few IT jobs for local customers, but they were hardly paying the bills, and the cost of trying to fight this, and losing my house was the stuff of nightmares.
The only option I had was to start commuting back to my old employer in The City, and they very kindly offered me a job., the only problem was that the money was dire., but at least it gave me a way of keeping everything afloat while I tried to resolve this.
At this point, I felt that at some stage, this shouldn’t be a problem, as surely I will be able to put my case over, along with all the “factual” evidence to a Judge and he in turn will rule in my favor, surely!.
My next step was to start taking advice from one of the leading London Barristers in the UK on the Cohabitation question.
He then set out in his summary my legal position.
Now, this is a very important point, and a point that many don’t understand, and until 2010 I didn’t!.
In the eyes of the law, as we were NOT married, I had no guaranteed recourse thru the courts to demonstrate my input to the matter.
Had we have been married, it would have been totally different, as I would legally have had the right to take her to court and demonstrate to the Judge the massive investment in all the financial aspects of the relationship and given that I could prove my input, in a very factual way via bank statements and accounts details, the outcome would have been a forgone conclusion.
The Barristers breakdown deemed that if I were to be able to put my case, then she may get awarded between 10% to 30%, and that was based largely on previous case law, but it was by no means an exact science.
It could be that on the day, the judge didn’t see it like that, and would rule that there was no case and that the property would be divided 50/50, but he felt that was unlikely as my ex had clearly been very underhand in what she was up to.
Now, this is the bit where the law lets people like myself down.
I was clearly badly advised back in 1995 when the property was brought, as the rules governing how solicitors instruct their clients were significantly tightened up in 1998, and the law today still does not cater for this kind of situation, and still does not protect someone like myself who has clearly been honorable and decent throughout. I’ve never tried to deceive anyone, in fact, the opposite, but when I needed the law to back me up, it wasn’t there.
My options to get my house back were very limited.
On the one hand, I could have taken the matter to court and tried to fight my corner. The deciding factor in this was that I was being advised that my legal fees to get this to court would be approx. £80k, and that was just the start, it could end up far more than that, and even if I had won it, I could never have recovered that cost.
So, even if she had been awarded 20% I would have been faced with a bill of at least £80k in fees, and then another £80k to pay her off. I would have had to find £160k. to get the house that I had paid every penny of back!
Taking this to another stage, and she was to be awarded 50%, I’d have a bill of £260k!..
It’s just mad! and I had little or no options but to agree to a settlement with her, and even then she tried to get more money from me by cooking a story about the tax she would have to pay on the settlement fee.., I wonder if sometimes we ever really know the people we end up in relationships with.
I later discovered that while we were together she was having an affair with my neighbour, all of which I had no idea.
I even discovered that a medical tribunal case that she was part of in 1996 against the local council, of which she told me she lost, she in fact won, and received a pay-out. I had no idea, she told me it hadn’t gone well., and being a trusting person, I totally believed her.
Then we come to what was going on with my salary…., don’t get me started on that..
I don’t even recognise the person I ended up dealing with. For 9 years there was never a cross word between us, even when we had split up for the following 6 years, there was no indication that she was like this. She didn’t care one iota about how she brought me down, no conscience whatsoever. No morals of any kind, I know I could never take a penny off anyone if it didn’t belong to me.
What this story is screaming out to people is that relationships don’t always work out, in fact, the odds are that they will fail, and it is vital that from the outset of any transaction like this, the percentages are drawn up, no matter how brutal they may appear. I hate to say it, but the best thing I could have done was to marry her, as we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.
I think I was seriously unlucky here as I believe what I ended up with was a sociopath, the other thing I have ended up with is a mortgage which I will have to for the next god knows how many years…, so for me, this hasn’t ended..
She has literally hundreds of thousands of pounds in her accounts, along with houses and property that she has done little or nothing to earn, I just hope she has not done this to some other poor unsuspecting soul.
Don’t make the mistakes I have, as the current Cohabitation laws will not help you, even if you have a very strong case, the legal fees will sink you…