Property Rights of Unmarried Couples

By Cayden Conor

It has become common for unmarried couples to live together. The couples may put property in both their names or keep it in one name. Unmarried couples have property rights depending on whether the property is in both names. If not, the person whose name is not on the property stands a good chance of losing the property unless both parties purchased it.


The most important part of keeping property rights is to purchase property together and put the property in both names. The amount of down payment paid by the each party should be documented. If both parties share equally in the mortgage payments, this arrangement should also be documented. In the event of a separation, this documentation shows that both parties are equally entitled to the property.


The parties can hold the deed in joint tenancy or tenants in common. Joint tenancy allows both parties to share an equal interest in the property. Property held as tenants in the entirety is reserved for married couples. If the parties hold the property in joint tenancy, when one dies, the other receives the deceased's half of the property. Tenants in common allows parties to hold an unequal interest in the property.

Division of Property

Because the couple is not married, they do not have rights to each other's retirement and other monetary assets unless the asset is in both parties' names. This presents a problem for the division of property. If assets are in both names, other financial assets can be traded. If not, the party who keeps the house will have to come up with cash to buy out the other party.

Rights to Property

The only right one person has over the other is if the deed to the property is in both parties' names. Even then, rights are limited, depending on the type of deed the parties signed. If the mortgage is in both parties' names and the person who keeps the property defaults, the bank will come after the other party, even though no marriage occurred. In the event of a breakup, the person keeping the home should refinance the property in his own name as soon as possible.

Rights If the Deed Is Held in Tenants in Common

If the deed is held in tenants in common, one party has the right to sell his interest in the property without the permission of the other party. The party keeping the house does not have any rights in the matter, even if she holds a smaller interest than the party who is selling his interest. When the unmarried couple purchases a home together, they should be sure both names are on the property and the mortgage and that the deed is a joint deed.

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