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Unmarried couples buying property together

- Featured article by LAWYERS-ONLINE.CO.ZA

Protection for unmarried couples buying property together

There are many special considerations involved when purchasing property, even more so for unmarried couples. Couples should be made aware of their rights.

It is essential to register the house in both parties’ names. Another advisable matter to consider is to conclude a co-habitation or joint property owner’s agreement – this will be to protect both parties in the event of anything going wrong.

To summarise, a cohabitation agreement is an agreement in which both parties stipulate how all property and/or assets will be divided upon termination of the relationship among others. This type of agreement is recognised under South African law.

The agreement should cover specific aspects, such as: the percentage each party will contribute towards the bond repayments, rates, levies (if any); the contribution of maintenance and upkeep of the property; and the division of the property if or when the relationship comes to an end.

Another decision to determine is what happens if one of the individuals dies. One option is to write in the contract that the couple has a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship. This means that the surviving person receives sole ownership. This option allows the house to be transferred easily to one person.

Another option is to write that both individuals are tenants in common. This means that each person decides who receives their share. The decision can be written in a will. The share will usually go to the closest relative if there's no will, as set out in the intestacy laws of the state where the property is located.

Date: 5th August 2014

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