Co-habitation Agreements



Moving in with someone you have chosen to spend your life with is exciting, but as you start your lives together, you're not likely to be considering your legal rights, or how you're going to split the bills. You're surely not likely to be thinking about what would happen to your home, furniture, bills etc. if you split up. Living together may seem like an attractive prospect but legally it can be a nightmare because your relationship is not recognised by law. This is because "common law" relationship isn’t recognised by South-African law. Similar to a couple married out of community of property, co-habiting couples must make sure that if they want ownership of particular assets; they register them in their own names, even if they are gifts. This might all seem complicated, but it does not have to be.

So how do you protect yourself, your partner and each of your assets, should you decide to move in together? You need a co-habitation agreement.

How can you benefit from a co-habitation agreement?

  • Use a co-habitation agreement to sort out the day to day workings of living together and protect both you and your partner from whatever might happen in the future of your relationship.
  • Whether you have just moved in together, or been living together for 5 years, drawing up a co-habitation agreement is still a good idea.
  • It encourages you to discuss how your co-habitation will work in practice and what your anticipations of each other are.
  • It helps you to organise the day to day finances of living together.
  • It prompts you both to think about easy and fair ways to divide the costs and dodge those niggling little arguments about who is paying for the food and the utility bills.
  • In the unfortunate event of a break-up, it can help you to do so as amicably and fairly as possible, without letting emotions run rampant.
  • The co-habitation agreement is a legal document that governs how assets and debts are managed during and after the relationship.

  • What are the risks of co-habitation without an agreement?

  • Both might have purchased property or any assets together, you do not share the same rights as married couples - no matter how long you have been together.
  • Your estates may be intertwined, but you have no legal or financial obligations to one another should you separate or should one of you die.
  • The law does recognise what it calls universal partnerships, where, you must prove you have contributed towards helping your partner grow their assets. You can, however, only claim against their estate if you have sufficient proof.
  • Even though you can recover your out-of-pocket expenses, is will be very costly, due to the fact that it can only happen through a High Court Application.

If you need any further guidance or assistance herein, please give us a call to set up an appointment!

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