What to do and how to do it

How to make a Living Together Agreement

If you are moving in or living with your partner and aren’t married, it is a really good idea to make a Living Together Agreement. This guide explains why having a Living Together Agreement is a brilliant way to protect yourself and your partner, and takes you step-by-step through the process. This is the easiest to use and most comprehensive guide to making a cohabitation agreement on the internet - and, unlike the others, it's free!
How to make a Living Together Agreement
How to make a Living Together Agreement
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Living Together Agreement Template
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Budget sheet
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Introduction

If you are moving in or living with your partner and aren’t married, this guide is for you. It explains why having a Living Together Agreement is a brilliant way to protect yourself and your partner, and then shows you how to do it - quickly and easily. It only takes most people an evening.

There are other Living Together Agreement packs available, but this is the only one that is free. It is also more comprehensive, easier to understand, and flexible so that you can use it to confirm whatever agreements work for you.

What is a Living Together Agreement?

A Living Together Agreement (or Cohabitation Agreement as it is sometimes called) is simply a record of what you have agreed about how you will own and share things. It encourages you to think about easy and fair ways to organise your day to day finances and ensures that if your relationship ended, neither of you would lose out financially - unless that is what you had agreed. All couples who live together would benefit from making one.

An agreement that sets out what would happen if you did split up isn’t an admission that you think you will, anymore than taking out building insurance means that you think your house will fall down. In fact, it can strengthen your relationship by helping both partners to feel happier and more secure.

Joe’s story

"When we bought a flat together my girlfriend suggested I paid the mortgage and she paid all the other bills (which added up to the same). We’d been doing that for a year when my mum mentioned she thought that would mean I had more right to the flat than my girlfriend. We both knew that wasn’t fair, so when I suggested making a living together agreement she agreed straight away." Joe

April 2015

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Disclaimer

The information in this guide applies to England and Wales and is for general purposes only. The law may be different if you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The law is complicated. We have simplified things in the guide to give you an idea of how the law applies to you. Please don't rely on this guide as a complete statement of the law or as a substitute for getting legal advice about what to do in the specific circumstances of your case.

The quotes and cases we refer to are not always real but show a typical situation. We hope they help you think about how to deal with your own situation.

 

Why should we bother?

A living together agreement helps you to discuss and agree how you will pay for things like the rent or mortgage, and household bills. In doing so, it can help you avoid the kind of arguments and minor worries that can build up over time.

Happy young couple smiling at each other. Photo by Emy Lou PhotographyBut when it really comes in useful, is if you split up. Unfortunately, some couples do split up. Couples that live together have few rights or protections if it does all go wrong, no matter how committed to each other they were, or how long they have been together. (If you have children together, there are some things the law can help with, but not many). Instead, couples have to try and work out how to divide their property, money and belongings on their own - when they are usually heartbroken or angry and not feeling terribly fair.

Couples who haven’t made a living together agreement often find that they have very different expectations of what should happen or ideas of what is fair. For couples who have been together a long time, it’s hard to even remember who contributed what, let alone what you said about it at the time.

As unlikely as it seems, making a living together agreement is actually a loving thing to do. It protects both yourself and your partner from unfairness and unpleasantness in the future, just in case.

“We had lived together for 7 years when things fell apart. I moved out and stayed with friends. I suddenly had no home, but what was even harder was not having anything! Everything stayed in the flat with Adam and I was so emotional, the last thing I wanted to do was go round and start trying to negotiate or take legal action. It all took months and eventually I ran out of energy. He ended up keeping everything basically. He was supposed to buy me out of the house, but I ended up settling for a lot less than half. He wasn’t trying to be unfair, it was just the circumstances. As long as I had to keep going back I couldn’t move on.”
Sandra

When to make a living together agreement

Ideally you would make a living together agreement when you first move in together, but late is better than never, so even if you’ve already been together for 15 years it's still a good idea.

My partner and I made a living together agreement 2 or 3 years after we’d bought our flat together. Good job we did. Until we made the agreement we hadn’t noticed that we had very different understandings of what we had agreed about the flat. I thought we owned it 50/50, but she thought she owned 65% of it because we had borrowed some money from her mum, even though we paid her back.

Is a living together agreement legally binding?

Living together agreements have a slightly odd status in law. They aren’t binding unless you write them as a formal legal deed, but the court will usually follow them as long as what you agreed is fair, and you were both honest about your finances when you made the agreement. A court is even more likely to uphold the agreement if both of you also had some legal advice about what you were doing before signing the agreement.

If you want to ensure it is binding, take your completed agreement to a solicitor and ask them to write it as a legal ‘deed’.

Don’t put it off

Hopefully you have decided you really should make a living together agreement - please don’t put it off. Like making a will, it doesn’t seem urgent and so too many people never get round to it. We’re sure you can think of more fun things to do with your evening - but this is probably the most useful thing you can do.

How I suggested it to my partner...

We asked readers who had made a living together agreement to tell us how they first suggested it to their partner.

"Tash has always been clear that she never ever wanted to get married. So when she got pregnant with our eldest, I went down on one knee and proposed a living together agreement." Aidan

"I just told him I hope our relationship lasts forever, but just in case it doesn’t we should make a living together agreement. If the worst does happen and we do split up, I don’t want us to hate each other." Neelam

Lesbian couple hugging son“I’d heard about living together agreements mentioned it to my partner one night.  I said I didn’t think we needed to because, if we did split up, I thought we’d be really fair about money and the flat we rent.  She said that actually, she didn’t think she would be and as she is better at arguing than me, we should probably make an agreement now. The next day she had printed off the forms and we filled them in. Not the funnest evening we’ve ever had but definitely pleased we have it in the drawer, just in case.” Suzi

"I earn more than my partner, always have. When I first mentioned living together agreements to her, it didn’t go well. I’m not sure if she got it confused with a celebrity pre-nup or what, but she definitely thought it was about me protecting what is mine. It was only when we were discussing what we would put in it that she realised that wasn’t it."
Tom

How to use the agreement checklist and template

The next part of this guide is a checklist which goes through all the issues that you might like to include in your living together agreement and other things that you must include. Don’t be put off by the size of this section; depending on your circumstances there may be many parts that won’t be relevant to your relationship. You can include any issues that are relevant to you and ignore the others. The only essential sections are marked with an *essential in the notes and template agreement. Next to each issue is a box that explains where you put this information in the template agreement.

If you are planning to set up home together for the first time, one of the difficult things to work out is how much everything will cost. For this reason we have included a budget template, so that you can estimate what your joint household costs will be.

Want to make it even more likely that a court would uphold the agreement if you split up?

Instead of writing it up yourself, together take your completed checklist to a family solicitor who can write an agreement for you and give you legal advice about it. If you have done all the work in advance it should reduce the costs that you have to pay. You can find a good family solicitor on the Resolution website (see Find a Resolution member (for family law)).
Don’t be afraid to call around a few firms and compare prices before you decide which one to use.

When you’ve finished the checklist

When you’ve finished the checklist you can transfer the answers to the template agreement in the downloadable guide.

Keep it simple. It is tempting to try to provide for every possible future change but this is almost impossible.

At various points in the agreement there are alternative words or sets of words – when you get to these you need to choose which ones you need and delete the others.

Once you have finished drafting the agreement it is a good idea to read it through together out loud. This helps you to spot any mistakes.

Then invite a friend or two over and sign and date it in front of them. Then ask them to sign it as witnesses.

Make sure that you both have a copy of the signed and dated document and that you keep it safe.

You might need to update it...
Remember that when your circumstances change, perhaps because you have a baby, move, or get a better paid job, you need to update your agreement.

Agreement checklist

For most people it will be easiest for you to print this page off and make notes on it as you discuss the issues with your partner.

Date *essential

If you are writing your own agreement using the template put the date in section 1.

It is important to have a date. This saves arguments later about when something was agreed.
Though the date is normally written at the beginning of the document, you should only fill it in last, on the day that you both sign the final version of the document

Date

Your names and addresses *essential

Names and dates go in section 2.

Any legal agreement needs to set out the names of the people who are making the agreement, and their address(es).

It also helps to have a short way of identifying yourself. For example, you could just use your first name, or the name that you are usually known by. So you could be:
James Peter Brown of 15 Market Road, Micklehampton, Loamshire FD22 3PQ (“Jim”).
At all later points in the document you will be referred to as Jim, until you get to your signature at the end.

(1)Full name
Full address

Short name for the rest of the document

(2)Full name
Full address

Short name for the rest of the document

Telling each other about your finances

Transfer these details to Schedule A in the template agreement.

You both need to be honest with each other about what you earn, what you own and what you owe. This is so that you both realise what you are agreeing to, and it removes the possibility of somebody later arguing that one of you was trying to take advantage of the other.

If you own your home (or any other property) you probably don’t need to get your property valued, but you need to agree on a realistic market value.

[ 1 ] ………….’s finances
Income:
salary before tax £ per year net salary £ per month
any other income:
Capital:
house/flat: £
savings: £
shares: £
car: £
contents: &c £
other: £
Debts:
mortgage: £
credit cards: £
H.P.: £
loans: £
other: £

[ 2 ] …………..’s finances
Income:
gross salary £ per year net salary £ per month
any other income:
Capital:
house/flat: £
savings: £
shares: £
car: £
contents: &c £
other: £
Debts:
mortgage: £
credit cards: £
H.P.: £
loans: £
other: £

Children

Transfer names and dates of birth to section 4 of the agreement.
Financial arrangements go in section 13

If you have any children it is important to include them in the agreement. You need to think about who is going to take responsibility for them and pay for them.

If there is a child who has another parent, does that parent support the child? Do you want to make an agreement about how that money is used? Will the stepparent assume any financial responsibility for the children?

Child/ren’s full name(s) and date of birth.

Say whether they are children of you both, or are from a previous relationship.

Say whether the child has another parent who is still alive.

Who will pay for the children?

Who will look after the children?

Your home

Put details of how you paid for the home in Schedule B.
Details of your agreement about the house go in Section 5.

If you are renting your home you do not need to say much about this in the agreement.

If you own it (whether or not you have paid off a mortgage) you need to decide about how you own it and spell out your agreements.

There are a number of different possibilities. The most obvious ones are:-

  • One of you owns the home in his or her sole name and does not want the other person to have a share of it. If this is your position, the non-owner needs to understand clearly that they will not get any share in the home, even if they make a financial contribution to the running of the household. Many people in this position decide it is fairest if the non-owner doesn’t contribute to the cost of buying the home, maintaining it, or decorating it, and just contributes to the general living expenses (food, utility bills, council tax, etc). Others do contribute but agree to see it as ‘rent’ that they would otherwise be paying. Whatever you agree is fair for you, you need to spell this out in the agreement.
  • One of you owns the home but wants to agree that the other should have a share. If this is the case then you should consult a solicitor and decide how best to do this. This situation has not been covered in the living together agreement as it should not be done without legal advice. See ‘Finding a solicitor’
  • You own the home between you - as joint tenants
    This means that you own equal shares that cannot be split up. If one of you dies the other will inherit the whole of the home. If you did not sort out the legal position in any detail when you bought the home, it is likely that this is the way you own it. You ought to check this with your solicitor to make sure. You can change the way you own it and turn it into a ‘tenancy in common’ (see below) if you prefer, but you should get legal advice about this.
  • You own the home between you - as tenants in common. If you own the home this way you can state the shares you each have. If you don’t state the shares the law will treat you as owning it 50:50. Many people find it useful to own a home as tenants in common if they have made different contributions to the purchase price of the home, because the shares can reflect this. Your solicitor should have advised you about this when you bought the home and drawn up a Declaration of Trust that states the shares that you own. Your partner will not inherit your share automatically if you die first so it is vital that you both make wills.

The address of your home.

How did you buy the home? i.e. mortgage, savings etc.

How much did you each contribute?

Do you own it:-
* In one person’s sole name
* As a joint tenancy
* As a tenancy in common

If it is a tenancy in common, what shares do you hold it in?

………………………. : ……%

………………………. : ……%

Endowment policies

Put these details in section 9 of the template agreement. If you don’t have an endowment policy, delete section 9.

If you have an endowment policy which backs your mortgage, you may have put it in joint names or in one person’s name.
You need to decide whether you will share this jointly, in case there are any profits after the mortgage is paid. Your decision might depend on who pays the policy instalments, or whether you have shared all the household expenses equally.

Who is the policy with?

Whose names is the policy in?

How are you going to share any profits?

Household expenses and debts

Put these details into section 10 of the template agreement.

If you are moving in together now you need to think about who is going to pay for what. This is sometimes difficult unless you know exactly how much you spend on everything. You may first need to use the downloadable Budget form (see 'Related guides') to help you to do this. This helps you both work out what you can afford.
You can sort out how you pay for the household expenses in various ways.

The simplest arrangement is probably to open a joint bank account for all the household expenses and each pay regular amounts into it (you can still keep separate accounts for any money that is not shared). You could each pay in the same amount (if you can both afford it), or you might decide to have a different arrangement. Some couples, for example, decide that they will each contribute half of their take-home pay each month.

If you have a joint bank account, the law treats you as owning half shares of any balance. This may be what you want, or you might feel that if one of you is putting in more than the other, you want to agree that any balance is shared in that ratio. You can set that out in your agreement.

You might decide that each of you will pay for particular items: one of you will pay the gas bill; the other will pay the food shopping. You need to explain in the agreement whether or not you treat these contributions as equal.

You could agree that whenever one of you pays a bill the other will give him or her half of the amount. This is a bit fiddly, but it may be the way that you start out.

If you have already been living together for sometime you have probably already organised your finances in some way. If you have, all you need to do is just note down how you generally pay for things and if you feel that you own them equally.

Debts
When you live together you do not become responsible for each other’s debts. You can only be legally responsible if you take out the loan, credit card or hire purchase agreement in your name (or jointly with your partner). If you owe anything before you get together your partner cannot become responsible for this.
However, if you are living together and the utilities (gas, water, etc) and Council Tax are in one person’s name, the company can pursue anyone else that lives at the address and who uses the service, even if they aren’t named on the bill.

If you are going to have a joint bank account, list here:-

Bank

Branch

The amount that you are each going to pay in each month/week

Are you going to/do you treat this as an equal contribution or not?

Are you going to/do you own any balance jointly?

Have you/are you going to arrange the account so that you both have to sign to authorise a payment?

If you are not going to have an account together, and are each going to pay for separate things, list them here, with the estimated amounts. Say whether or not you consider them equal contributions.

Savings

Put these details in section 11 of the template agreement. If you don’t have a savings account, delete/ignore section 11.

Some people have savings accounts or ISAs in one person’s name, that they treat as shared.

If you have any accounts other than your joint account, list them below and say whether they are shared or not.

Who is the account with?

Whose names is it in?

Are these savings shared or owned by the person whose name is on the account.

Ownership of contents and other personal possessions

If you are writing your own agreement transfer this information to section 11.

In order to avoid arguments about who owns what, it is helpful if you set out some rules in the agreement. The law is fairly straightforward but you may want to spell it out to avoid later misunderstandings.

If you owned something before you got together, it belongs to you.

If you bought something with your own money it belongs to you.

If you inherited something, or it was given to you by someone else, it belongs to you.

If one of you buys something and gives it to the other it belongs to the person to whom it is given.

If you buy something out of a joint bank account it belongs to you equally, unless you have agreed to own the account in different shares. If you have, you own the object in those shares.

If you buy something together but each contribute different amounts to the price, you own it in the shares in which you contributed.

Some people find it helpful to keep a list at the end of the agreement of any large or expensive items that they buy for the home, with a note of who owns them.

It may help you to indicate whether you both agree to the rules that are set out here:

If you owned something before you got together, it belongs to you
YES/NO

If you bought something with your own money it belongs to you
YES/NO

If you inherited something, or it was given to you by someone else, it belongs to you YES/NO

If one of you buys something and gives it to the other it belongs to the person to whom it is given
YES/NO

If you buy something out of a joint bank account it belongs to you equally, unless you have agreed to own the account in different shares. If you have, you own the object in those shares.
YES/NO

If you buy something together but each contribute different amounts to the price, you own it in the shares in which you contributed
YES/NO

Cars and other large items

Put this information to section 12. Adapt and repeat for any other large items. Delete/ignore section 12 if you don't have any large items.

This section is for cars or any other large items that you don’t want to share if your relationship ends (even if you both use it during the relationship).

Even if the non-owner does make a contribution, they won’t gain a share in return.

List any large items here that you want to make sure stay yours only and say who owns them.

Pensions

Transfer these details to section 14 of the template agreement.

You both need to check out any pensions that you have.
The first thing to check is the ‘death-in-service’ benefit. Pension schemes through your employer will generally pay out a lump sum if you die before you retire. You can choose who you want to get this money. This is called ‘nominating’. You will generally be given a form to complete when you join a pension scheme so that you can do this. If you have done this a long time ago and can’t remember whom you nominated, contact the Human Resources department of your employer and check it. You can change a nomination if you want to. You should also check with the HR department whether the trustees of the pension scheme will agree to pay to your unmarried partner.

You can nominate the payment to go wholly to one person, or be divided between a few people. For instance, you could nominate your partner to get 50% and the rest to be divided equally between your children.

List here your pension schemes and what you have found out about whether your partner can benefit from them.

Decide whether you are going to nominate the scheme in favour of your partner, wholly or in part.

Ending the agreement

Put these details to section 15.

This agreement will end if your relationship ends. Or if you die or marry as the law will take over.

Decide whether or not you want to include the sentence about trying to use mediation or solicitor negotiation to solve any disagreements, rather than go to court. This is a good idea as it will save you money and help you to sort things out more quickly.

Transitional arrangements

Transfer these details to section 16 of the template agreement.

This sounds rather grand but it just means what will happen while you are sorting out your split. There are a number of suggested clauses in section 16 of the agreement that you might want to use. You probably don’t want to tie yourself down too tightly at this stage because you can’t predict what the future would hold, but you might want to use come of the suggested clauses to indicate the way you both feel you should go about dealing with a split, if it did occur. For example, you might want to say you’ll try to divide the furniture and things you bought together equally, or that you will aim to sell the home as soon as possible and divide the money equally.

Have a look at section 16.
Does it seem to cover all the situations? Do you want to add to it, or change it?

Renegotiations

Transfer these details to section 17 of the agreement.

Agreements like this can go out of date. If it seemed fair not to share everything equally when you were both working and making unequal contributions, it may need to change if one of you gave up work to look after a new baby, for example. You don’t have to change it, but it is a good idea to keep it under review. You might want to say that you will check it formally every three years, for instance.

Have a look at section 17.
Do you want to agree to change the agreement when your circumstances change?

Signing and dating the agreement *essential

Add your signatures to section 18 of the agreement.

Once you have got all the details into the agreement and are both happy that it is correct you need to sign it in front of a witness.

You should fill in your full names and sign to the right hand side of the page. Your witness should add their signature and then their full name and address.

You don’t have to both sign the document at the same time.
The same person can witness both your signatures.

Once you have both signed the document you should put the date on the front.

If you want to make sure that the document is enforceable

If you want to make sure that the document is enforceable it is a good idea to make it in the form of a deed. You do this by including the words ‘as a deed’ so it reads "SIGNED AS A DEED" above your signatures. It is advisable to do this if you want to make sure that the agreement about the ownership of the home is binding, for instance, or if one of you is promising to pay something to the other.

We would strongly advise you to take legal advice if you are going to make the agreement in deed form. You could do nearly all the work yourselves to save costs and ask a solicitor to check the draft that you have prepared.

The checklist and template agreement is only to be used in the way described on the website. The law is detailed and complicated. If in doubt, get expert advice.

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