Judge orders man to hand over share of his home to woman he said was a lodger

Judge says partner earned a share of the property: what does this mean for couples living together?

The property

Michael Burton, from Notton near Wakefield, has been ordered to sell his £450,000 house, and give a share of the proceeds to his former partner, Kristina Liden. The court had heard Burton claim that she was little more than a lodger, who had no claim on his property.

The couple had been together for 18 years. After living together in Sweden for six of them, the couple moved to the UK, and into the home that Burton had shared with his ex-wife. When Burton invited Liden to move in, he insisted that she made a financial contribution towards the mortgage because otherwise he couldn't afford to keep the property. Over the years she paid him more than £70,000.

However, the Telegraph reported that the relationship ended 'in circumstances of some acrimony', and while Liden (a keen horsewoman) said she deserved a share of the house to reflect her financial contributions, Burton argued he didn't owe her anything - so the couple went to court.

Kristina Liden

Liden highlighted that they had been together for the best part of two decades, during which time he had proposed to her (and bought an engagement ring) and promised they would live together in the property forever. He, meanwhile, argued that she was essentially a lodger, that the money she had paid him was just rent, and that he had always made it clear he wouldn't share his home with her.

The judge during the initial case was unimpressed. According to the Daily Mail, he said: "I do not find Mr Burton's suggestion that he always made clear that the house was to be sold to fund his pension convincing. He appeared to downplay the significance of the relationship... almost suggesting that Miss Liden moved to England as a lodger rather than a partner in a relationship." He added: "Had she known the true state of affairs, she would potentially have felt that she was paying an unreasonably high contribution to the household."

He ordered that Burton should sell the property, and give Liden £33,522 of the proceeds. Burton appealed, and the appeal court has just dismissed the case. He now has to pay her the share of the property - and pay all the legal costs of both cases.

Grey area

The case is yet another example of why things can get complicated when a couple has lived together for many years, made promises to one another, and contributed financially to the mortgage or to improving the property.

The fact there is no definition of a common law husband or wife means there will always be disagreements and cases like this.

It means that couples moving into a house owned by one of them should consider putting any agreement on ownership of the property in writing.

If the non-owning partner is contributing financially, it's worth having a document drawn up by a lawyer stating your agreement over who owns the property. If they are not paying anything towards the house, it's still worth putting an informal letter together outlining ownership - signed by you both.

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