Property rights of cohabiting couples
Buying a home together
If you are buying (or thinking about buying) a home with your partner, you should consider in advance which is the best home ownership option for you. In Ireland, joint ownership of property for cohabiting couples can be held in one of two ways;
- Joint tenancy
- Tenancy in common
This means the whole property is owned by two people with the intention that, when one dies, the other person will automatically own all of the property. In situations where one person has paid for the property, the other person may not get 50% of the proceeds if the house is sold. In situations such as this, you need to check your situation with a solicitor.
Tenancy in common
This means the property is owned in defined shares by two people. For example, 50/50, 75/25, 60/40, etc. Each person can leave their share of the property to whomever they wish. (They may leave their share to their partner for example, but they must make a will stating this fact). If no will is made, the share becomes part of the estate of the deceased partner and the other partner does not have any automatic right to the share. Instead, the family (or even a separated spouse or civil partner) of the deceased person can claim this share. You can read more about dealing with a deceased person's estate here.
The family home
The Family Home Protection Act 1976 gives a spouse the right to veto any sale or lease of the family home by the other spouse. In order to sell or lease the family home, the written consent of both spouses must first be obtained. Under Part 4 of the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010 similar provisions apply to the shared home of a couple in a civil partnership.
These provisions do not apply to cohabiting couples. If you are living with your partner in his/her house, there is no need for your partner to obtain your written consent before he or she can sell or lease the house.
Local authority housing
The question of whether or not you may be allocated local authority housing is generally based on your need for housing and whether you could afford to pay for your own accommodation. Cohabiting couples may apply to be allocated local authority housing.
Usually when married couples are allocated local authority accommodation, the lease is in both their names as joint-tenants. This means that if one spouse dies or leaves, the remaining spouse can take over the lease. It is also possible for cohabiting couples to apply for the allocation of a house to be held in joint-tenancy.
If you move in to a local authority house where your partner is already the sole tenant, you may apply for joint tenancy after two years.
Private rented accommodation and the private housing market
Under the Equal Status Act 2000 and the Equality Act 2004, a landlord cannot refuse to rent accommodation to you because of your civil status. He or she also cannot discriminate against you in relation to any of the services or amenities relating to the accommodation or end your lease simply because you are not married or in a civil partnership.
Cohabiting couples are entitled to buy private houses and lending institutions will not refuse to give you a mortgage simply because you are cohabiting. The main concern of lending institutions is your ability to repay the loan.
If you feel that you and your partner have been discriminated against in the area of housing, you should bring your complaint to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission within two months of the discriminatory act or decision.
If you are buying or considering buying property with your partner, you should seek legal advice on the best option for you.