I put down $200.00 for a down payment for a condo with my boyfriend. It’s on the title, but not on the mortgage. How can I protect my stock investment now?

Dear Quentin,

I recently sold my condo and put the equity gained (over $200,000) into a new condo I own with my partner. My partner – we are not married – is on the title, but not on the mortgage. It pays half of all monthly expenses without fail. What would be the best way to document and protect my capital in the event of separation?



Dear complicated,

File it under “R” for “real estate” or “R” for “ruh-roh.”

If it’s on the title, it should be on the mortgage. This creates a power imbalance within the ownership contract. Not only have you invested $200,000, but you bear all the risk. If your relationship with this man deteriorates and he leaves, you are the one who will have to make the payments to avoid losing your house and damaging your credit rating, not him.

Plus, if you pay off the mortgage, he’ll still be entitled to his 50% share of the property if you sell it. It’s a win-win for him. You also took $200,000 of your own money and mixed it into a shared asset. It’s a cautionary tale and a classic example of what to avoid when buying property with a partner, especially one you’re not married to.

I’m guessing your partner had a lower salary and/or credit rating, and for that reason you decided to put your own name on the mortgage. It’s an unusual arrangement, but one that should – as long as your relationship is healthy and strong – be considered. If you give it a mortgage, you’ll have to refinance, and rates have likely gone up since your purchase.

A cohabitation agreement is a wise move for unmarried couples, especially those who own a home. It’s a contract – a de facto prenuptial agreement. You both agree to the terms and conditions: what happens to the house if you separate or one of you dies before the other? Are you selling the property and splitting the proceeds 50/50? Who, for example, is your health care proxy?

You must specify in this agreement that you both get back what you invested in the house, if your boyfriend did not contribute to the deposit. You can frame the conversation about the cohabitation agreement around your living situation and include your position on the property you jointly own. As always, have a lawyer review anything before you sign.

I wish you many happy years — together — in your new home.

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