Woman ordered to pay rent after partner died without a will
A woman has been ordered to pay rent for the time she spent living in the house she shared with her partner after he died without making a will.
The partner had been married in the 1980s and had two children.
He later began a relationship with the woman involved in this case. They had similar incomes and bought a house together in 1989 with a joint mortgage. They had a child in 2000 and she became a homemaker and financially dependent on her partner.
By 2006 their relationship had cooled. The partner was earning a large income and bought a new house in his sole name, although she still lived there with him. They broke up at the end of 2011 and he moved out of the house.
He was then involved in a serious work accident and was in a coma until his death six months later. His children became the administrators of his estate.
The woman remained in the house but had no income and did not pay the mortgage. There was £200,000 of equity in the house, but £50,000 of mortgage arrears and repossession was imminent. The children claimed for vacant possession of the house so it could be sold.
The woman argued that she was entitled to a half-share of the proceeds of the sale.
The judge looked at the intention at the time the house was purchased and noted that it was unusual that the first house had been in joint names, while the second was in the partner’s sole name. That strongly indicated that he did not intend that the woman should be an equal owner of the property.
The judge found that, considering her contribution to the first house, which formed the deposit for the second, she was entitled to a 10% share in the second house. He ordered her to give possession to the children for it be sold and account taken of what was due to her from the estate.
There was further a hearing to determine whether she should pay rent for the time she had remained in the house after her partner’s death.
The judge held that rent was payable for that period, save for three months for which he granted her relief on the basis that time would have been needed to find a new home.
The High Court upheld that decision.
It is not unusual for people who cohabit rather than marry to discover that they have few legal rights if their relationship breaks down or one of the partners dies. Legal disputes over wills are becoming more common and can lead to great hardship and heartache.
That is why solicitors always advise people to make a will and keep it up to date.