Is a declaration of trust legally binding? Can I get my share of the money back from my ex if we bou…

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Question: My ex-girlfriend and I bought a house together five years ago. I paid a deposit of £100,000. We both contributed equally to the mortgage and other outgoings. Our relationship broke down and she has now moved out.

When we bought the house our solicitor did a declaration of trust saying I would get my £100,000 back on sale and that the net proceeds after paying off the mortgage would be split. My ex says the declaration of trust is worthless and she wants the property sold and half of the sale proceeds. What do I do?

Answer: Check the terms of the declaration of trust to ensure that it accurately reflects what you agreed with your ex-girlfriend when you purchased the property.

It should detail the financial arrangements you both made at the outset such as: confirming the deposit you paid and your shares in the property; how much each of you would contribute to the mortgage and other outgoings; what would happen on a relationship breakdown, eg one of you buy the other out or sell the property and the mechanics for so doing, ie how the property would be valued and how the net proceeds of sale split.

The declaration of trust is a legally binding document, so your ex-girlfriend cannot ignore it. Provide her with a copy.

Consider instructing an independent solicitor (not the solicitor who acted for you when you bought the property and drafted the declaration of trust because he would be conflicted as he acted for both of you) to write to your ex-girlfriend explaining her obligations under the terms of the declaration of trust. 

If that fails you may need to apply to the court to enforce it.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. Questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a solicitor specialising in residential property.

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