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UKfamsol, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 560
Experience:  Very experienced specialist family law solicitor, qualifed in 1994
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I'm trying to find out if I have any legal standing on a financial situation with my

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I'm trying to find out if I have any legal standing on a financial situation with my ex partner. We had a verbal agreement in 2003 to invest in a property which I put £10k towards, I have the bank transfer details. He then entered into an agreement with a friend who fronted the mortgage on a flat. I cohabited with him in the flat for two years until the relationship broke down and I moved out. We have a child together so we continued to try make the relationship work whilst living apart but finally separated two years ago. I have since asked him about my investment in the flat and he continues to ignore my requests. Yes I was incredibly stupid! I am concerned that as it was only verbal agreement and that the flat was in his friends name that I have no legal claim and have lost all my money. Please advise me if there is anything I can do to get my money back?

Hello and thanks for your question.

I need a bit more information to be able to answer:

Whose name(s) are on the title deeds?Your ex's sole name? or jointly with his friend or in the friend's sole name? or jointky with oyur name as well?

Approximately what is the house worth, and how much is the total mortgage secured against the property?

In additon to your £10,000 towards the purchase price, have you made any other financial contribution either to the capital element of the mortgage, or paid for anything that has increased the value of the property eg new kitchen, new bathroom, installing central heating?

Did your ex make any promise to you that the proeprty woudl always be your home?

On the basis of that promise to you, did you give up anything of value eg a secure tenancy, or selling a property that you would not now be able to afford?

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Firstly there are two elements to this issue.

Firstly the investment was going to be for an off the plan investment property that a deposit was put down on. I was taken to see the building works of the property a few times. This then fizzled out and he then proposed the purchase of the flat with his friend.

To my knowledge the property is solely in his friends name. It was purchased on 7th November 2003 for £126,250. It is now valued at approx £260,000. I have no idea abut the mortgage details other than the name of the friend whose name is ***** ***** deeds. There was also a huge bill for leasehold maintenance on the property that was paid not long after the property was purchased. I also contributed to renovations on the property. I would need to search back to get the details of the amount spent.

It was considered to be our home and we lived in it together for two years. He continued to live there for a number of years after I moved out and we still continued in an off on relationship. We always discussed this property as our financial security and equity on buying another home for us once it was sold or his friend bought out our half.

After we separated he always promised that he would pay me back the initial investment. He is now cohabiting with his current girlfriend and they have purchased a house together. I do not know the details of the financials on this, nor do i know if he still has a financial interest in the property he shared with his friend.

Hello again and thanks for the information.

I'm afraid I don't have good news for you.

The legal position for someone whose unmarried relationship ends is quite different from the legal position of a married person who divorces. Matrimonial legislation provides that once a divorce petition has been filed at court, either party can ask the court to decide how the assets of the marriage should be divided, and the court will order that the assets be divided fairly, regardless of in whose name they were originally. And the matrimonial assets mean everything including pensions and money.

However, for a cohabiting couple who separate, the only claim that either can make against the other is in relation to property, and that claim must be based on property law, rather than what is fair.

If you and your ex can negotiate an agreement, then you can between you agree anything you want – but if you cannot reach agreement, the only powers that the court has is a) to make a declaration of ownership in property – ie stating what share you have in the house owned by your ex’s friend, and b) an order for sale.

To explain a) in more detail: There are two types of interests in land – one is the legal interest, which refers to the name or names on the title deeds, the other is the equitable interest (also called the beneficial interest). In your case, as the house is in the sole name of your ex’s friend, you do not have a legal interest in the house, as your name is ***** ***** the title deeds.

However, there is a possibility that you may have an equitable interest in the property, if you can convince the court that your £10,000 initially paid towards the off-plan property, was then transferred towards the purchase price of the house, and/or if you could show the court that you made a financial contribution to the capital element of the mortgage (if any) or you paid for anything that increased the value of or the house eg the renovations you mentioned. But you would almost certainly have to show a direct contribution eg a payment going from your bank account to a builder’s account that did repairs or maintenance, or a receipt from the builder which clearly showed that you alone paid his bill, rather than just a general contribution to household expenses, even if that was a regular payment .

If the court was satisfied that you had an equitable interest in the house, the court would then state exactly what your share of the property is. And the court could then order that the house be sold and the net proceeds divided as per the shares that the court had ordered - but once it was established that you did have a share, the owner would have the option (to avoid an order for sale), of buying your share from you, ie paying you a lump sum of the amount that your share was worth. You share might be a very small percentage.

If you cannot prove that you have an equitable interest in the house, which is very difficult to do –especially given that the owner is not your ex, and lack of documentary evidence - there is an even more difficult-to-prove possibility that you may have a right to compensation under the principle of proprietary estoppel. This principle states that if you acted to your detriment (eg by selling your own property or by giving up a secure tenancy) by moving in with your ex because of a promise he made to you, eg that you would always have the house as your home, or that he would repay you the £10,000 when your relationship ended, then it MAY be that the court would order your ex to make a payment to you in compensation. But again, no documentary evidence.

I have to say that the legal position of people in your circumstances is not at all straightforward, and is the kind of case where I would always instruct a specialist barrister. Unfortunately, there is no longer any legal aid for this type of case. I would advise you to see a specialist family law solicitor, who can then take all your details and arrange for a barrister to give a written legal opinion. You can ring around a few solicitors to find out how much this is likely to cost. Here's where to find a specialist family law solicitor:

However, to go to court, your legal costs could easily be more than £10,000, maybe even double that, with no certainty of succeeding, and very little likelihood even if you do succeed of getting an order for costs against your ex.

But as going to court is time-consuming, stressful, and expensive, and with a very uncertain outcome, a better option is to try to negotiate with your ex as to what lump sum he could pay you, given the length of your relationship, and the financial support you have given him eg the renovations as well as contribution towards the purchase price, over the years. You can negotiate either between the two of you, or via solicitors' correspondence, or via mediation. The family court anyway now requires the parties to have attempted mediation before it will consider an application to court. Mediation would seem to be your best option, as it's better to have a neutral person in a round-the-table discussion with both of you (but the mediation process starts with an individual appointment with each of you). And mediation is cheaper than seeing a solicitor. Here's where to find a local family mediation service:

I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck.

Thanks and best wishes...

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