Matrimonial Home Rights
If, as a spouse or civil partner you do not legally own a share of the property you live in with your respective spouse or civil partner, you can protect your potential share in the property by way of a notice known as the ‘Matrimonial Home Rights Notice. Your matrimonial home rights can be registered with the Land Registry against the property and prevent it from being sold, transferred, or re-mortgaged without your agreement. The matrimonial homes right notice cannot be removed without your agreement until a financial settlement is either agreed by you or ordered by the court. It is however only valid while you are married (i.e. until the decree absolute is issued within the divorce proceedings), unless there is a court order to the contrary. It will also come to an end on the death of your spouse.
A collection of statutory rights
‘Matrimonial Home Rights’ is the name given to a collection of statutory rights which seek to protect a spouse in the occupation of the matrimonial home. The rights are extended to civil partners by the Civil Partnership Act 2004. The rights provided include:
- The right of a non-owning spouse to occupy the matrimonial home, and to enforce the same by what are called ‘occupation orders’;
- The right that in certain circumstances one spouse’s rights of occupation shall be a charge on the estate of the other, and that subject to registration; such a charge can bind third parties, including mortgagees;
- A number of procedural provisions which seek to protect the non-owning spouse in occupation in the event of proceedings for possession by a mortgagee.
The effect of registering a notice is therefore that the legal owner is unable to sell, deal with the property or mortgage the property until the notice or charge is vacated. It will not, however, have any effect upon any prior mortgage or charge. Once a charge has been registered, the non-owning spouse has the right to make mortgage repayments in order to avoid repossession.
Matrimonial Home Rights – Title Deeds
When your name is not on the Title Deeds, it is essential that you determine your spouse’s or civil partner’s interest in the property, be it freehold or leasehold, as this will affect where your interest should be noted. A tenancy or lease for less than seven years cannot be registered at the Land Registry. However, a lease with a term over seven years will require registration and will have its own title number at the Land Registry. Therefore, it is essential that your interest is noted against the title to protect your interests especially if you think your spouse may try to sell or remortgage the matrimonial home.
Forms you should complete
You can find out whether your spouse’s title to the house is registered by submitting Form SIM to the Land Registry or by carrying out an online search against the property. The search will show who is the registered proprietor and thereby owner of the home.
To register your interest in the property you must complete Form HR1 and send it to the Land Registry office for the area in which the property is situated. There is no fee.
If your spouse’s ownership of the house is not registered, then your rights can be protected by a ‘class F land charge’ in the records kept by the Land Charges Department.