According to experts, an unmarried couple who buy a home are making a risky financial decision. They should not view buying a house as just romantic because dividing property and sifting through finances if they separate could become even more messy than if they were married. Cohabiting couples who live in Ohio might feel better knowing how to protect their property and best interests in case their relationships go south.
Each state has different laws that dictate how to divide marital property between divorcing spouses. However, these laws do not apply to unmarried individuals. In Ohio, the property that they own is held as tenants in common, which means that they own it together, and if one person dies, the ownership passes to the survivor.
Upon separating or ending their relationship, one of the individuals could buy out the other person's ownership. When an unmarried couple does not want to or cannot do this, or they cannot sell or transfer the property to a third party, one of them may file a partition action. This gives the court the authority to consider the appraisals of and both parties' interest in the property to decide who will retain ownership. If the couple is still paying for the property, they could lose their interests through a partition action or foreclosure.
One way to avoid this is for one of the partners to purchase the property while the other pays market rent. However, it is important that the couple view this as a business relationship rather than a romantic one. This involves having an attorney prepare and review the appropriate legal documents so that both individuals have protection in the event that their relationship does not last to marriage. Like a prenuptial agreement, a cohabitation agreement allows the couple to agree to any terms in a binding contract.
Cohabiting couples who are confused about how to ensure that all of their property is protected under Ohio laws could ask their respective family law attorneys for more information. They may receive suggestions for their specific situations.