Canadian snowbirds or real estate investors considering a home purchase in the United States can be confident in the state of the market according to a new survey.
Results of a poll conducted in the fourth quarter of 2019 have been released this week by The National Association of Realtors and show that 63% of American consumers felt it is a good time to buy (33% strongly) while 74% said it is a good time to sell.
The strength of the jobs market and economic conditions are boosting sentiment.
“The mobility rate has been very low as many have opted to stay put for longer,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. “However, this latest boost – Americans saying now is a good time to move – is good news. With mortgage rates low, the timing is indeed ideal for those who want to enter into homeownership and for those looking to move on to their next home.”
Older respondents (the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers) showed the highest confidence in buying conditions and higher earners ($100K+) and those in the West are more likely to feel that it’s a good time to sell.
“The Western region has seen home prices increase to the point that costs have outpaced income,” said Yun. “So, it is no wonder that those living in the West would think that now is a perfect time to place a home on the market. California especially is seeing some of the highest prices ever.”
The NAR survey has also asked about home prices with 64% saying their believe that prices in their communities have increased in the past 12 months.
More respondents expect local home prices to rise in the next 6 months (48% said so) than those that expect them to stay the same (41%) or decrease (11%).
On the economy, 52% believe it is improving although this falls to 47% among millennials and 41% of those living in urban areas (66% among those in rural areas).
“Whether it is a reflection of politics or true economic conditions, there is a difference of views between rural and urban areas,” added Yun. Source: Real Estate Professional – by Steve Randall 10th January, 2020
As a home buyer, you braved the real estate buying circus when you bought your first home, and you have a great place to show for it. You’ve trudged through the open houses, experienced exactly how stressful closing can be, and dealt with legions of moving trucks. And still, a part of you wants something more: an escape in the mountains, a beach cottage, or a pied-à-terre in the city. You want to buy a second home.
With current mortgage rates at a historic low, you might be tempted to jump in. But beware; buying real estate as an investment property or second home won’t be the same as your first-time home-buying experience. Here are some differences and advice to keep in mind.
First things first: Can you afford to buy a second home?
If you scored a sweet deal on a mortgage for your primary residence, don’t expect lenders to give you the same offer twice.
“Second-home loans generally require more down payment and a better credit score than owner-occupied home loans,” says John Lazenby, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association.
You may have to pay a higher interest rate on a vacation home mortgage than you would for the mortgage on a home you live in year-round, and lenders may look closely at your debt-to-income ratio. Expect a lender to scrutinize your finances more than when buying a single-family primary residence.
“Lenders look carefully to ensure that second-home buyers are financially capable of paying two mortgages,” Lazenby says.
Make sure to review your budget with a second mortgage payment in mind, and make adjustments if necessary after you know what interest rate you will receive. And make sure you can afford the real estate down payment—a healthy emergency fund and cash reserves are essential if an accident or job loss forces you to float two mortgages at once.
Evaluate your goals
Understand exactly how you plan to use the property before you sign on the dotted line.
“Buyers should consider their stage of life and that of their children to ensure they are going to actually use the home for the amount of time that they’re envisioning,” Lazenby says. “A family with young children may find that their use of a second home declines as the kids grow older and become immersed in sports.”
If you’re certain you’ll get enough use and enjoyment out of your new purchase, go for it—but make sure to carefully consider the market.
For most homeowners, a second home shouldn’t be a fixer-upper. Look for homes in high-value areas that will appreciate over time without having to sacrifice every weekend to laborious renovations on your “vacation home.”
Buying in an unfamiliar area? Take a few weekend trips to make sure it’s the right spot for you. In the long term, you’ll want it to be a good investment property, as well as a place to play. Pay close attention to travel times, amenities, and restaurant and recreation availability, otherwise you might spend more time grousing than skiing and sipping wine. And make sure to choose a knowledgeable local real estate agent who will know the local real estate comps and any area idiosyncrasies.
Understand your taxes
You may be familiar with a bevy of home credits and tax breaks for your first home, but not all of them apply to your second.
For instance: You might be planning on using your new home as a vacation rental when you’re out of the area. If that’s the case, you need to calculate the return on your investment property purchase price that you can expect over the course of a year. How much can you charge per night or per week for your rental property? How many weeks will you rent out the property? And what expenses will you incur?
“Property tax rules and possible deductions for second homes used as rentals are complicated and vary widely, depending on both the number of days per year that the owner occupies the home and the owner’s personal income level,” says Lazenby.
A vacation home offers more flexibility to buy based on your potential property tax burden—for instance, if you’re looking to buy in an area of high real estate taxes, consider widening your real estate search to another county, which can save you thousands of dollars. Your real estate agent should be able to help you find property you as a buyer can afford.
Lazenby recommends consulting with a tax professional about tax implications, especially if you’re planning on renting out the house.
A vacation home you use part time and also rent out may be considered rental property for tax purposes, depending on personal-use days as the homeowner, and the number of days you rent it out. If you rent out the vacation property for more than 14 days in a year, you must report the rental income on Schedule E of your individual tax return, and you can deduct the rental portion of expenses such as mortgage interest and property taxes. However, renting out your home as a short-term vacation home for 14 days or less in the year means you cannot deduct rental expenses, but the income from your renters is tax-free.
When a series of tax and mortgage rules was introduced in Canada in 2016 to prevent a housing market bubble, activity slowed down significantly in the years that followed. Given the current circumstances, is it still viable to invest in property?
In a think piece in Macleans, market watcher Romana King said even with fears of a global recession, real estate is still a smart way to invest.
“For investors, the key to making strategically smart decisions is to consider the underlying economic factors that impact your investment,” she said.
King said the housing market could climb out of negative growth forecasts this year. Citing figures from the Canadian Real Estate Association, she said the national sales activity was on target to increase by 5% in 2019 and could expand further by 7.5% in 2020.
“Canada boasts strong population growth, and government budgetary decisions are acting as stimulants for the national housing market, all of which point to a healthy future for Canada’s real estate market,” she said.
Investing in real estate, however, is not without risks. For investors, it is crucial to know some strategies to lessen the potential risks, King said. The first is to be aware of additional debt. Investors must keep an eye on their credit scores and pay bills on time.
“Most investors will require a mortgage to purchase rental real estate. This can alter your debt ratios, which can impact whether or not you get the best mortgage or loan rates. Talk to an advisor before applying for new credit or renewing a current loan,” King said.
Another must-have strategy is budgeting. King said investors need to control how much they spend on maintenance and repairs to ensure that their rental properties are cash-flow positive.
“An investor needs to budget for a contingency fund. If the anticipated monthly rent covers all monthly expenses, including a repair fund, then the property is cash-flow positive, which is fundamental for a good investment,” she said.
Getting insurance could also mitigate the risks of catastrophic events.
“Virtually all insurance policies will cover a catastrophic loss of a building, but as a real estate investor, you must also consider the loss of income due to damage or destruction. A comprehensive rental policy will provide a landlord with income to replace lost rent at fair market value,” she said.
Overall, investors need to treat real estate investing as a business. Citing Edmonton-based investor Jim Yih, King said the key to successful real estate investing is positive cash flow, and not just the purchase price and the potential sale price.
Source; Canadian Real Estate Magazine – by Gerv Tacadena 12 Nov 2019
From 1948 to1970, close to half a million people from the Caribbean were invited to what was commonly referred to as the ‘mother country.’ Arriving as British citizens (despite never living in Britain) is a trait rooted in the legacy of the Empire. Whilst there were many reasons for their arrival in Britain, many were seeking superior opportunities for themselves and their offspring. Early settlers spoke about a five-year plan to save money and return back to the Caribbean. Prohibited to find suitable accommodation, many migrants were confronted with signs such as, ‘No Coloureds or Blacks’, which was routinely used alongside the use of ‘No Irish and Dogs.’
Where Caribbean’s were permitted to rent, the standards and conditions of the dwellings were typically unsavoury. Consequently, there was a determination to purchase one’s own properties using a system popularly known as pardner, which involves the collaborating of resources to provide access to funds. This system was particularly useful when banks would not loan to black people. Early settlers from the Caribbean owned houses in what are now some of the wealthiest locations in Europe, such as Notting Hill and Paddington. It was not rare for these residents to own more than two houses that were rented out, characteristically large three or four story Victorian terraced houses. As the decades proceeded, many of these houses were sold due to the owners returning to the Caribbean, or simply moving. Similar trends occurred in Shepherds Bush, Balham and more recently in Dalston, Brixton, Peckham, leaving a decline in property ownership amongst succeeding Caribbean heritage peoples within the UK.
While the cost of properties has been exorbitant in London, where according to the last Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Census for England and Wales, 58.4% of black people reside, the cost of properties in locations such as the West Midlands (which is said to host the second largest population of black people) at 9.8%, is considerably lower.
Black Landlords UK (BLUK) in Birmingham aims to revitalise the calibre of not only black home ownership, but also the number of black landlords. Founded in late 2017, one of the committee members Garfield Reece revealed how the organization came into fruition. ‘’It evolved (BLUK) from conversations that Rod Shield (senior investor in Birmingham) had during his networking meetings. People were asking him the same questions wherever he went.’’ Some of the questions that Reece cited were ‘’How we got into property management? How to turn a single let property into a high yielding HMO (House Multiple Occupation)? How to resolve issues and conflicts with tenants.’’
Initially, Rod Shield decided to establish a Whatsapp group to address the myriad of questions he was bombarded with and to mobilize the engagement of black people within the community. The Whatsapp group quickly demonstrated the demand for such an organization and according to Shield, “The Whatsapp group numbers exceeded the allowable quote on Whatsapp; well in the excess of 200 investors in the group. So that’s really where it all started.’’ It was during this time that the committee (who volunteer their expertise for free) decided to galvanise all those that expressed an interest in property to congregate in one room. This lead to BLUK’s quarterly meetings; “The first meeting was held back in January this year,’’ declares Reece.
The first BLUK meeting in January 2019 had approximately 50 people in attendance, and numbers have been growing rapidly. At BLUK’s last quarterly meeting for 2019, the committee expect to have 120 investors. “We are giving service providers and businesses within the community, an opportunity to sell and promote their businesses,’’ Reminiscent of a market stall, there will be six tables with businesses each discussing topics such as finance and how to raise mortgages. Half of the meeting will consist of Keynote Speakers, who will talk about the process one has to go through when acquiring property. The other half of the meeting will be dedicated to roundtable discussions, “It will be like mini workshops,’’ states Reece. “Each roundtable is going to talk about a different investment strategy,’’ Reece adds.
The next BLUK meeting will take place on Saturday, November 23rd, 2019 from 14:00 – 18:00 at the Legacy Centre of Excellence (formerly known as the Drum) 14 Potters Lane Birmingham, B6 4UU.
Broadies Byas’s home is a hidden gem. From the outside, it looks unassuming, if somewhat neglected.
But past the porch of the Victorian townhouse a rich interior reveals itself: tall ceilings, a mahogany staircase, stained glass doors and picture frames virtually untouched since the home was built in 1856.
The house, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, has an even more remarkable story — Ms. Byas’s father, a teacher who was born into a family of former slaves in South Carolina, bought it in 1957 for $7,500.
But now the house is going through a tumultuous chapter. Ms. Byas, 54, is working to reclaim it after she was duped into signing away her property deed, according to federal prosecutors. Though the house is worth about $1.2 million, she gave it up, unwittingly, for a mere $120,000.
“I pride myself as a true New Yorker — angry, skeptical, not trusting,” Ms. Byas said. “But I felt like the stupidest person on the planet.”
A booming real estate market in Brooklyn is fueling a crime that law enforcement authorities say has taken hold in largely African-American neighborhoods that are being gentrified — deed theft, which involves deceiving or sometimes coercing a homeowner into signing forms that transfer ownership of a property.
In many cases, a homeowner is made to believe the documents involve some type of financial assistance, but in fact turn out to be the property deed.
Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights, both known for their collection of largely intact townhouses that cost a fraction of what similar homes sell for in Manhattan, have become hotbeds for deed theft, according to law enforcement authorities. Homeowners in Prospect Heights, Brownsville and East New York have also been targeted.
Real Estate Shell Companies Scheme to Defraud Owners Out of Their Homes
Of the nearly 3,000 deed fraud complaints recorded by the city since 2014, 1,350 — about 45 percent — have come from Brooklyn, according to data compiled by the city’s Department of Finance. (The borough accounts for roughly 30 percent of the city’s housing units.)
The authorities believe the problem may be more widespread since homeowners may not realize right away that they have been victimized.
“It’s just a drop in the bucket,” Eric Gonzalez, the Brooklyn district attorney, said at a recent town hall meeting in Bedford-Stuyvesant. “It’s really hot in the real estate market in Brooklyn. People want to steal our homes.”
In Ms. Byas’s case, which led to the arrest of a man and his son, the aim was to flip her home and try to resell it to buyers who have been flocking to central Brooklyn seeking more affordable homes in lower-income neighborhoods.
Those orchestrating the schemes often hide behind limited liability companies and shell companies, making it difficult for homeowners to determine if they are being swindled and by whom.
“By the time a homeowner realizes what has happened, the home may have already been sold or mortgaged multiple times,” said Christie Peale, executive director of the Center for N.Y.C. Neighborhoods, a nonprofit organization that helps homeowners.
Even though rising property values in neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant have provided homeowners with more equity, many remain cash poor.
As they grow older or lose a spouse, their homes can accumulate liens stemming from unpaid property taxes or water and sewage charges, making them vulnerable to fraudsters who often search public records to identify homeowners under financial stress.
“Deed theft has become a common tool of career criminals and unscrupulous real estate developers to illegally obtain real estate, most often with the goal of selling it at a huge profit in high-demand housing markets,” Letitia James, the state attorney general, said in an email.
Dairus Griffiths, 65, has been mired in a five-year legal battle to recoup his home in Bedford-Stuyvesant after he was ensnared in a scheme and ended up giving up the house, which was worth $1.3 million, for $630,000.
Mr. Griffiths was facing foreclosure after a tenant stopped paying rent, causing him to fall behind on his mortgage payments.
Not long after foreclosure proceedings began, a man named Eli Mashieh approached Mr. Griffiths claiming to run August West Development, a real estate firm in Queens, according to Theresa Trzaskoma, Mr. Griffiths’s lawyer.
He told Mr. Griffiths that he was going to lose his house and offered him a cash advance, Ms. Trzaskoma said. Feeling pressured and fearful that he would soon be evicted, Mr. Griffiths signed a document selling his home for $630,000, believing it was a preliminary sales agreement that he would have the chance to reconsider.
After talking to his daughter, Mr. Griffiths did try to cancel the sale, but when he called Mr. Mashieh he refused, saying it was a done deal. Mr. Mashieh obtained a default judgment and the sale eventually went through.
But Daniel Richland, a lawyer for Mr. Mashieh, disputed Mr. Griffiths’s claims and said a court had effectively ruled that the sale was legitimate.
Some homeowners may not even know that their deeds have been stolen, the authorities say. Documents proving the sale of a property are recorded by the city registrar’s office, but not necessarily checked to ensure that they are legitimate. Owners might continue paying the mortgage for a property they no longer own.
“It is, in fact, easier to steal ownership of a home than actually burglarizing it,” said Travis Hill, who oversees real estate fraud for the state attorney general’s office.
Recovering a home whose deed has been illegally transferred can be difficult unless there is clear proof of wrongdoing, like a forged signature. In one case, the authorities arrested a man accused of committing fraud because the signature on a deed came from someone who had been dead for years.
It is also challenging to determine whether the person had entered a bad, but not necessarily fraudulent, financial deal. “It’s often a very hard line to straddle,” said Noelle Eberts, a lawyer at the New York Legal Assistance Group who represents Ms. Byas.
In Ms. Byas’s case, two men, Herzel Meiri, 64, and his son, Amir, set up a limited liability company called Launch Development.
The two men instructed employees to search online for financially distressed properties in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, according an indictment filed by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. Ms. Byas was among 60 homeowners the two men, along with five other accomplices, were accused of swindling.
The men described themselves as foreclosure specialists who helped property owners with loan modifications or promised that they would be able to transfer their properties to trusted relatives to avoid losing their homes.
Homeowners were encouraged to sign documents that were later used as proof they had agreed to sell their homes to Launch Development, prosecutors said.
The company also deceived banks into approving the sale of homes by providing falsified documents, including paperwork edited or completed after homeowners had signed them.
“Launch Development resold many of the homes, which were purchased at fraudulently deflated prices, for an enormous profit,” the indictment read.
The Meiris pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Herzel Meiri was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment in August 2018, and Amir Meiri to five years’ imprisonment in November 2018.
Ms. Byas’s ordeal began in 2008, after she learned she had multiple sclerosis and could no longer work. By 2014, she owed about $69,000 in unpaid mortgage payments and other bills and was facing foreclosure.
She believed a second mortgage would prevent her from losing her home.
One day, a young man rang her doorbell claiming he worked for Homeowners Assistance Services of New York, an organization specializing in foreclosures that turned out to be linked to Launch Development.
He was polite, had a cherubic face and was someone Ms. Byas said she would feel comfortable inviting to a cookout. “When you’re in a panic, you think, ‘I can’t believe my luck,’” she said.
After several visits from the man, Ms. Byas was taken by a private car service to Launch Development’s offices in Queens, where she described being, at various turns, cajoled or pressed into signing reams of documents. Instead of a loan agreement, she had signed a deed document, giving away the title to her home.
In total, the company schemed to buy her home for $120,000, about 10 percent of the property’s value. She was able to show that she had been swindled because the check came from Launch Development, which had been on the radar of law enforcement authorities.
Still, five years later, the title to her property is in the hands of the government and she is waiting to hear when she will get it back.
“We were living the American dream,” Ms. Byas said. “This is a house that your ancestors worked for. They came from nothing.”
Real Estate Shell Companies Scheme to Defraud Owners Out of Their Homes
7-Year Fight to Reclaim a House Stolen in the Wave of a Pen
Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura was previously based in London, where she covered an eclectic beat ranging from politics to social issues spanning Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Born and raised in Paris, she speaks Japanese, French, Spanish and Portuguese. @kimidefreytas•Facebook
EAST STROUDSBURG, Pa., 2018 (Reuters) – School bus driver Michael Payne was renting an apartment on the 30th floor of a New York City high-rise, where the landlord’s idea of fixing broken windows was to cover them with boards.
So when Payne and his wife Gail saw ads in the tabloids for brand-new houses in the Pennsylvania mountains for under $200,000, they saw an escape. The middle-aged couple took out a mortgage on a $168,000, four-bedroom home in a gated community with swimming pools, tennis courts and a clubhouse.
“It was going for the American Dream,” Payne, now 61, said recently as he sat in his living room. “We felt rich.”
Today the powder-blue split-level is worth less than half of what they paid for it 12 years ago at the peak of the nation’s housing bubble.
Located about 80 miles northwest of New York City in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, their home resides in one of the sickest real estate markets in the United States, according to a Reuters analysis of data provided by a leading realty tracking firm. More than one-quarter of homeowners in Monroe County are deeply “underwater,” meaning they still owe more to their lenders than their houses are worth.
The world has moved on from the global financial crisis. Hard-hit areas such as Las Vegas and the Rust Belt cities of Pittsburgh and Cleveland have seen their fortunes improve.
But the Paynes and about 5.1 million other U.S. homeowners are still living with the fallout from the real estate bust that triggered the epic downturn.
As of June 30, nearly one in 10 American homes with mortgages were “seriously” underwater, according to Irvine, California-based ATTOM Data Solutions, meaning that their market values were at least 25 percent lower than the balance remaining on their mortgages.
It is an improvement from 2012, when average prices hit bottom and properties with severe negative equity topped out at 29 percent, or 12.8 million homes. Still, it is double the rate considered healthy by real estate analysts.
“These are the housing markets that the recovery forgot,” said Daren Blomquist, a senior vice president at ATTOM.
Lingering pain from the crash is deep. But it has fallen disproportionately on commuter towns and distant exurbs in the eastern half of the United States, a Reuters analysis of county real estate data shows. Among the hardest hit are bedroom communities in the Midwest, mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions, where income and job growth have been weaker than the national norm.
Developments in outlying communities typically suffer in downturns. But a comeback has been harder this time around, analysts say, because the home-price run-ups were so extreme, and the economies of many of these Midwestern and Eastern metro areas have lagged those of more vibrant areas of the country.
A home is seen in the Penn Estates development where most of the homeowners are underwater on their mortgages in East Straudsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., June 20, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar
“The markets that came roaring back are the coastal markets,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. He said land restrictions and sales to international buyers have helped buoy demand in those areas. “In the middle of the country, you have more flat-lined economies. There’s no supply constraints. All of these things have weighed on prices.”
In addition to exurbs, military communities showed high concentrations of underwater homes, the Reuters analysis showed. Five of the Top 10 underwater counties are near military bases and boast large populations of active-duty soldiers and veterans.
Many of these families obtained financing through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA makes it easy for service members to qualify for mortgages, but goes to great lengths to prevent defaults. It is a big reason many military borrowers have held on to their negative-equity homes even as millions of civilians walked away.
A poor credit history can threaten a soldier’s security clearance. And those who default risk never getting another VA loan, said Jackie Haliburton, a Veterans Service Officer in Hoke County, North Carolina, home to part of the giant Fort Bragg military installation and one of the most underwater counties in the country.
“You will keep paying, no matter what, because you want to make sure you can hang on to that benefit,” Haliburton said.
These and other casualties of the real estate meltdown are easy to overlook as homes in much of the country are again fetching record prices.
But in Underwater America, homeowners face painful choices. To sell at current prices would mean accepting huge losses and laying out cash to pay off mortgage debt. Leasing these properties often won’t cover the owners’ monthly costs. Those who default will trash their credit scores for years to come.
Special education teacher Gail Payne noses her Toyota Rav 4 out of the driveway most workdays by 5 a.m. for the two-hour ride to her job in New York City’s Bronx borough.
“I hate the commute, I really, really do,” Payne said. “I’m tired.”
Now 66, she and husband Michael were counting on equity from the sale of their house to fund their retirement in Florida. For now, that remains a dream.
The Paynes’ gated community of Penn Estates, in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, is among scores that sprang up in Monroe County during the housing boom.
Prices looked appealing to city dwellers suffering from urban sticker shock. But newcomers didn’t grasp how irrational things had become: At the peak, prices on some homes ballooned by more than 25 percent within months.
Slideshow (19 Images)
Today, homes that once fetched north of $300,000 now sell for as little as $72,000. But even at those prices, empty houses languish on the market. When the easy credit vanished, so did a huge pool of potential buyers.
Eight hundred miles to the west, in an unincorporated area of Boone County, Illinois, the Candlewick Lake Homeowners Association begins its monthly board meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer.
Nearly 40 percent of the 9,800 homes with mortgages in this county about 80 miles northwest of Chicago are underwater, according to the ATTOM data. Some houses that went for $225,000 during the boom are now worth about $85,000, property records show.
By early 2010, unemployment topped 18 percent after a local auto assembly plant laid off hundreds of workers. At Candlewick Lake, so many people walked away from their homes that as many as a third of its houses were vacant, said Karl Johnson, chairman of the Boone County board of supervisors.
“It just got ugly, real ugly, and we are still battling to come back from it,” Johnson said.
While the local job market has recovered, signs of financial strain are still evident at Candlewick Lake.
The community’s roads are beat up. The entryway, meeting center and fence could all use a facelift, residents say. The lake has become a weed-choked “mess,” “a cesspool,” according to residents who spoke out at an association meeting earlier this year. Association manager Theresa Balk says a recent chemical treatment is helping.
Annual homeowner’s dues of $1,136 are being stretched to pay for all the upkeep. But those fees may be a big deterrent for many would-be buyers at Candlewick Lake, said association board member Randy Budreau.
“A gated community like this, with our rules and fees, it may be just less attractive now to the general public,” he said.
Source: Reuters.com – Reporting by Michelle Conlin and Robin Respaut; Editing by Marla Dickerson SEPTEMBER 14, 2018
When it comes to the division of property in Ontario after a common law relationship comes to an end, many people believe that they benefit from the same legal rights as any married couple, especially when children are involved.
It’s true to say that legal rights pertaining to children will be the same as if you were married, however, the biggest difference between married and unmarried couples is that you’re not automatically entitled to make any claim to the property you’ve shared and possibly contributed to, nor do you have an automatic right to live in the home that you have resided in.
When am I entitled to make a claim on a property owned by my common law partner?
Firstly, you would need to be considered to be in a common law relationship according to the Family Law Act and then you would need to provide evidence to prove monetary or another contribution, such as your time, which significantly bettered the household and benefited your common law partner. You may also have a claim if you can establish that the manner in which you operated as a couple greatly prejudiced you while benefiting the other side; thereby entitling you to have an interest in their property.
How do I know if I’m in a common law relationship?
The rules around this vary from province to province but in Ontario, this usually comes down to the length of the relationship and whether any children are involved. If there are no children involved, you are required to have lived together for at least three years before being deemed to be in a common law relationship and where there are children from the relationship, this time may be reduced to one year, although every case is different.
How can I prove my contribution to the household?
This is where the division of property becomes more complex in a common law relationship scenario as the responsibility falls upon the non-owner of the property to provide evidence of their contribution.
Most people in this situation will need to consult a lawyer to represent them in court as it becomes a matter of contract law as opposed to family law. If you feel as though you’ve made a valuable contribution, monetary or otherwise, over the course of the relationship, there are essentially two claims that you might be able to bring to court; unjust enrichment and constructive trust, both of which have different factors that need to be proved for the judge to make an award.
Protecting your interests
Whether you’re in a relationship and about to move into a property owned by your partner or, already in this situation and concerned about protecting your interests, there are ways in which you can be proactive and feasibly avoid the need for court should the worst happen.
Cohabitation Agreements can be drawn up by an experienced family lawyer, outlining how property should be divided if the relationship were to break down. Although this might seem like an awkward conversation at the time, once you and your partner have come to an understanding about where you both stand, it’s much less stressful to address it at the start of a relationship than it is when things may have become strained. You can get a sample cohabitation agreement but you will each need your own lawyer to advise on what your legal rights and obligations are under it for it to be legally binding in Ontario.
If you’re already going through the process of separation from a common law partner, the other arrangement that you could make is a Separation Agreement. As long as the parties are able to agree, a well drafted agreement sets out how the property is to be divided and can again save on time and money in going to court, but it is also enforceable by court should the need arise (again, so long as each party has made full financial disclosure and had independent lawyers acting for them).
Need advice on your particular situation?
If you want to understand how to best protect your assets or you need some help determining what you might be entitled to, contact our team today to book your free consultation with a member of our Family Law team.
Epstein & Associates, Barristers and Solicitors – Posted on August 12, 2019