Umarried mum of 3, not on mortgage, separation

I wonder if I could get some advice or guidance for Janet who finds herself in a difficult situation....

Janet (39) has been living with John (37) for approx 10 years. They have 3 children together aged 9, 7 and 21 months.  They have lived in John’s house which was in negative equity when they met.  John’s ex-partner, Sheila, has a 12 year old son by John. Sheila hasn’t contributed towards the house for 11 years but is still named on the mortgage and has signed an agreement that she is due just £12k as her share, as the house was in negative equity when she left.  Sheila now wants to be taken off the mortgage which we think can only happen if the house is sold. The house has a current value of £450k.

John had a single business when he and Janet first got together. Janet is not on the mortgage but has contributed significant funds of her own towards extending and improving the house and building up 2 additional businesses mostly owned by John.  Janet’s contribution over 10 years amounts to at least £50k - £60k including a £30k lump sum given to her by her parents, most of which has been used to pay building contractors and there are no formal records.

John now tells Janet that he will not repay any money that she has given him. Janet is not on the house mortgage for the house but is a 50% director on one of the (Ltd co) businesses, a large café/bar.

John and Janet have now separated and John is sleeping elsewhere but frequently returns to the house and becomes abusive towards Janet, for example telling her she has one week to get out of his house and to take her children and go and move back to her parent’s house.

A few months before they split up and in defiance of Janet’s concerns, John bought a German Shepherd puppy which is now a fully grown, noisy, boisterous, dog.  Due to his size and strength, the dog cannot be kept in the house with young children and has to be kept at the house in a garden outbuilding with a small pen.  John pays a dog-walker who takes the dog out several times a week and Janet puts food and water down for him.  Every few days John cleans up the dog waste.

Janet does not have any means of support except Universal Credit, Child Benefit and any housekeeping money that John gives her. Janet is now paying the Council Tax.

Janet has been told that she cannot recover the funds she has contributed.

Can Janet stay in the house until her youngest child is 18, and would that prevent Sheila from coming off the mortgage ?

Janet wants to restart her life elsewhere with her children but I think her situation is hopeless financially.

Any advice or guidance most welcome even if just to confirm that it is hopeless.


  • Were Janet and John married? If not then my understanding is that she has a lot fewer rights around property as a cohabitee than if they were married. I'm not a solicitor but I've been through the process of divorce and my layman's take on it would be ...

    1) Her rights to anything on the property would probably rely on her being able to prove that their was some agreement or expectation in place that the money she invested would be returned to her. 

    2) Her rights to anything on the business will depend on the specifics of what contractual arrangement she has in place. As a director (rather than owner?) she wouldn't necessarily have a claim to anything. If she is a 50% shareholder in the business then it's a different situation

    3) He can't just kick Janet out of the house on a whim I don't believe. He would have to go through a proper process but I don't think she would have rights to the property extending until her youngest child is 18. If he is being abusive to her then she should consult the police.

    4. She WILL be entitled to child maintenance for the kids that John is the father of and should start this process with CMS immediately.

    5. Is her name on the Council Tax bill? If not she has no reason to pay it just yet. 

    6. Her presence or not in the house will have ZERO impact on whether ex-wife can get taken off the mortgage. That's paperwork with the mortgage company that would simply require John to apply for a new mortgage in his sole name. If this relies on the property being sold then it probably would be difficult to sell while Janet is in situ though. 

    She may well already have done it but she probably needs to sit down with Citizens Advice and/or get a solicitor to review any documents/contracts she may have. 

    My advice. Sit tight in the house for the time being if she moves out she loses any leverage she has, don't pay any bills that don't have your name on them, contact the police if she fears for her safety (she may be able to get a restraining order or something) and contact Citizens Advice ASAP regarding next steps.

  • 0779mike0779mike Forumite
    60 Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10 Posts Combo Breaker
    If Janet is on Universal Credit and somebody puts up the 60% needed to buy a Help To Buy properties would UC cover the rental due for the outstanding 40%. Could the 60% be provided in such a way as to not affect current UC benefit, maybe benefactor could pay it directly to property vendor so that it never hits Janets bank account ? Property to go into Janet's name.

    Janet is not on existing mortgage and Johns credit score is poor.

    All comments and opinions greatly appreciated.

  • 4372243722 Forumite
    132 Posts
    Third Anniversary 100 Posts
    Janet and John have come a long way since I was at school.
  • SpendlessSpendless Forumite
    22.2K Posts
    Part of the Furniture 10,000 Posts Name Dropper
    Has Janet taken legal advice? Is it a solicitor that has told her she can't recover the money she spent? When I bought my house as a single person I asked my solicitor what would happen if I later moved in a live in boyfriend and then we split, would he be able to claim anything. The answer I was given at that time (mid 90s, England) is each case is judged on it's own merit and various things would be taken into account which would include things like home improvements. That's not to say someone would definitely have a claim, just the sort of things they look at. If Janet has already been told by a legal source that she can't claim back then I guess there's a reason for this possibly it's because it can't be proved?

    I very much doubt that Janet will be allowed to remain living in a house where she isn't named on the mortgage and was previously owned by her ex boyfriend and his former partner. Does the mortgage company know that Janet is living in the house? 

    Not that it helps matters now but Janet was nuts to give money to a house that she was not owner of and another woman was on the mortgage without the protection of marriage that would at least have given her some legal protection.
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