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Supreme Court Rules on Unmarried Couples’ Property Rights

The Supreme Court has ruled that a man who left his partner nearly 20 years ago is not entitled to half the value of the house they owned together.

Patricia Jones and Leonard Kernott bought a bungalow in Essex together. They were not married. After separating Ms Jones paid the mortgage for 14 years. She was challenging an earlier decision by the Court of Appeal which entitled Mr Jones to an equal share of the home’s value.

As they were not married, the Court in the past would only look at the way the property was owned and that was the end of it. In this case the Court looked at the way the parties dealt with their finances and inferred that their initial intention to jointly own the property was no longer relevant and that their intentions had changed since Mr Kernott moved out.

The Court recognised that Ms Jones had been paying for the property, the mortgage etc for 14 years without any contribution from Mr Kernott and that fairness dictated a change to the amount they were each entitled to.  Mr Kernott was awarded 10% of the value of the property, not 50%.

Samantha Lee of Swain and Co Solicitors said this decision could alter the outcome for unmarried couples arguing over property after separating.  This is a complicated and evolving area of the law.

If you think that you may be affected by this new judgment or you are unsure of your rights or legal position, the Family Law team at Swain & Co Solicitors will be able to advise you. Please contact us on 023 92492967 and ask to speak to a family Solicitor.

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