Property Ownership Problems

The cost of social care, family disagreements, or inheritance problems could put your property at risk

Your property is your most valuable asset, and not just in financial terms.

We invest a lot in property in the UK. According to Land Registry data released in January 2021 the average house price in the UK was £249,309. A consequence of the level of investment is that family problems can arise relating to property ownership.

Property Ownership Problems

Property owners have legal rights and responsibilities but they’re not always easy to recognise. Owning a property jointly can lead to some complex situations, especially if the property is owned by several individuals.

People who own their properties jointly are affected by special legal rules, about:

  • who can inherit the property
  • who has the right to sell or mortgage it
  • what happens when someone has to move into residential care
  • who has to pay tax on it

Couples usually buy their homes jointly but they don’t always supply the purchase money equally. If this isn’t properly recorded they could find they are wrongly assessed for social care funding or their relatives might lose out when an owner dies.

Property Ownership and Tenants in Common

Many people are aware they can own their property jointly as tenants in common but they don’t know whether they should or what else they need to do to really achieve the outcome they want.

Some families get together to buy a property they can all share as one household. If they disagree later on it can be difficult to get out of the arrangement unless their individual rights have been protected.

Failing to find out about property rights and responsibilities or ignoring them can lead to expensive and upsetting mistakes.

Property Ownership and Social Care

Many people worry their property will have to be sold to pay for their care. It’s true that the way in which you own your property could have a major impact on whether you qualify for social care funding. Some financial assessments are carried out incorrectly because there’s not enough documentation to show the true property ownership picture. The good news is you can prevent property ownership problems relating to social care by getting the right advice and taking effective action.

Business Property 

It’s not just families who can experience property problems. Many businesses are run from premises that are owned by one individual business owner. Take the example of a small or medium size business. Perhaps a sole trader originally purchased the business premises and still own them in their sole name. The business grows and a company is formed with others. If the property owner dies or loses mental capacity or there is a family dispute, the business premises could be at risk leading to serious problems for the company. Those problems could affect the future of the business and the people who work in it.

Trust Property

Trustees are often involved in property ownership issues. Trustees hold the legal title of trust property on behalf of the beneficiaries of the trust. The trustees are responsible for the property and anything that happens to it. Trustees may have to rent the property out to produce income for the beneficiaries. That means they become landlords with all of the legal implications of that role. Trustees are usually responsible for insuring and maintaining trust property. If the property is damaged or occupied by people who set up a cannabis farm or sublet it to multiple occupiers the trustees are liable.

Trustees have special legal responsibilities and can be financially liable if things go wrong. Our e-learning courses, launching soon help trustees understand their duties and legal responsibilities and learn how to protect themselves from claims for breach of trust or mis-use of trust property.

Don’t rely on estate agents or conveyancers to tell you the risks

It’s important to consider what will happen to your property if you should die or become mentally or physically unable to manage it and how the property is to be protected if you should find yourself in relationship, business or financial difficulties or at risk of criminal prosecution.

Information and advice about inheritance rights and legal responsibilities of owning property will not usually be supplied by estate agents, mortgage advisers, banks or even conveyancers. It’s a specialist area of the law. Members of Solicitors For The Elderly are lawyers trained to advise on these issues. Our online academy can get you the answers you need and save you money. Look out for our new, updated e-learning materials coming soon.

Here’s what else our courses and e-books cover…

  • social care funding rules and property ownership;
  • information for trustees and appointed LPA Attorneys and ourt appointed Deputies;
  • challenging financial and health assessments for people needing care;
  • making gifts to save tax or provide for vulnerable relatives;
  • explaining jointly owned property and inheritance issues;
  • changing joint tenants in equity to joint tenants in common.