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Trying to find a solution to a break up debt

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Hi,

Ideas would be very welcome!

Just over a year ago, my partner and I bought a house together. She put in most of the money, I paid the deposit each month, and we agreed to split the bills. Because it was far more her investment than mine, we signed a deed of trust which ensured that she would keep the bulk of the money if the house was sold. OK, I was an idiot to sign it, but there we go.

In the next year, we had issues with the roof. Because I didn't have any savings, my partner paid all of this - we never discussed any repayment ideas because we were a couple. But like I said - there was a general agreement that bills would be shared, and I said that I would be happy to repay my share of the costs when I was able.

To cut a long story short - a few months ago my partner broke up with me. My stake in the house is about £3,000 (OK, it wasn't an investment) but she's just presented me with a bill for £19K for roof repairs. And - I don't have £19K.

I have a couple of options here, but they aren't very nice. 

She can't actually afford to keep the house and is going to rent it out to keep her investment going. If I take my name of the mortgage, then she'll be forced to sell because she doesn't earn enough to re-mortgage. This means she'll lose a lot of potential profit. I've suggested that I am prepared to keep my name on the mortgage so she doesn't lose the property, even though this is a risk. Given that this could net her about £140K in a few years time, I don't think that's unreasonable. I'd probably only owe her about £13K if the property increased in value.

If she doesn't go for that, then I'll just have to force her to sell. I'm reluctant to this because she has mental problems and is soon to become unemployed, so I don't feel good about pushing her over the edge - but it remains an option.

So - I may find myself in the position of needing to repay my ex partner money I don't have. I'm looking at different options, such as taking out a loan, or maybe withdrawing some of this from my pension. I'm also wondering what happens if you agree to pay someone something, but there's no specific repayment terms discussed? I'm sure I'm not the first person who has found themselves in this situation.

I've discussed it with a solicitor but they kind of shook their head and couldn't offer any solutions. So - any ideas or comments would be welcome. Except calling me an idiot - I've got that bit, I already know it!




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  • fatbelly
    fatbelly Posts: 20,978 Forumite
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    I'm going to do similar to your solicitor.

    You can't just 'take your name off the mortgage'

    Equally you can't 'force her to sell.' Well not without a long and expensive court case.

    So as things stand you own a property as tenants in common with a deed of trust that gives her the larger share. She's paid for the roof repairs and now wants you to pay in 19k, which you don't have.

    In the meantime, she intends to find tenants and you are still paying the mortgage, I think.

    Why not stop paying it and see if her rental plan generates enough to pay the mortgage? Tell her you are open to sell the property whenever she is ready to.

    I certainly wouldn't be taking out unsecured loans or dipping into your pension to prop up a property that you have a minor share in. 
  • macman
    macman Posts: 53,098 Forumite
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    edited 20 September 2022 at 8:35PM
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    £19k for roof repairs? For most houses, that would buy you a new roof.
    Re any 'agreement', a verbal contract is legally binding, but in the absence of any written details, it degenerates into he said/she said, and the court would have to decide any liability.
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  • kimwp
    kimwp Posts: 2,040 Forumite
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    I would have thought payment for these roof repairs would be in proportion to the amount of the property you own. So if you own 5% of the property, then you pay 5% of the repairs. 

    Am I right in thinking that 19k is your share of the roof repairs, which means it cost £38k total?

    I think at the very least you should renegotiate the house ownership to reflect your financial input. If it's going to be rented out, you'll need to apply for a new (buy to let) mortgage anyway unless your current provider allows you to rent the house out. You can't just take your name off the mortgage though - you are jointly liable for the debt. You've basically taken on a large amount of debt, with very little to show for it in terms of property and then gifted your ex large sums of money every month. (Sorry)
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  • RAS
    RAS Posts: 33,138 Forumite
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    A new roof here (OK 3 bedroom terrace) cost £9k just before lock-down. Prices here have gone up but unless that roof was stone slates, £19K seems unreasonable.
    The person who has not made a mistake, has made nothing
  • Saviolo
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    Thanks for the comments, all much appreciated.

    The roof repairs are complicated by the fact that the house is big, and our first set of contractors didn't do the job right.

    I don't consider myself too badly handled in all this - my partner put most of the money up for the house and I have no problem with her taking most out. It was (mostly) a nice relationship, and I didn't go into it with any idea of a profit. If we hadn't had to pay such a lot for repairs on an old property, then I'd be fine to just go 'so long and thanks for all the fish.' But I'm trying to find a way to avoid a situation where I end up about 15K in debt, while my partner makes about £150K profit. That seems a little unfair.  
  • fatbelly
    fatbelly Posts: 20,978 Forumite
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    You're not 15k in debt unless she starts a court claim against you and wins it, which seems unlikely

    Her equity is assured through the deed of Trust. Not much you can do about that.

    But you can just refuse to get further involved in this property now that you are rebuilding your life without her
  • The_Unready
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    As (sort of) suggested by previous posters, I'd politely decline her offer to pay £19k for the roof repairs, thus putting the ball back in her court.

    I'd then be looking to move out sharpish, writing off the £3k you're 'owed' and starting the negotiations with her to get the house sold and mortgage redeemed.

    You can then argue about the equity, but it sounds like you're already prepared to let her have it....
  • gwynlas
    gwynlas Posts: 1,826 Forumite
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    If you have moved out and roof repair already completed then you should not pay any bill presented by her as you are not benifiting in any way.Whilst you wish to be fair life moves on and you have already used up your priveledge as a first time buyer, down the line if you remain on the mortgage you can be chased for shortfall in payment and ruin your credit rating. For a married couple in the same position the advice would be to make a clean break and cut your losses.
  • madaboutspots
    madaboutspots Posts: 157 Forumite
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    edited 21 September 2022 at 3:42PM
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    A “clean break” would be a VERY sensible way forward. In a divorce this is a legal aspect of the divorce which means absolutely no recourse for either side to claim financially from the other at a later date - for anything. This would draw a line under your dealings and enable you both to move on. Then afterwards, if you choose to have contact it’s just that - a choice, rather than awkward or forced.

    With regards the bill for the roof repairs. Firstly, you’d need copies of all the actual (paid) invoices - not quotes or your ex’s figures without evidence. This is just how things should be done.

    £19k does sound massive for the bill. Definitely worth asking for the bills. If it’s a genuine amount that wouldn’t be an issue. 

    If your ex is likely to benefit from the roof repairs with an increase in value for the house I would question why you would pay this without ANY gain at all. 

    It seems on the basic info that your ex is looking at this as a business transaction without emotion. I would encourage you to do the same. 

    How would you feel if she doesn’t sell the house but meets someone else, moves them in and they’re then living under the roof you paid for? Imagine if you borrow a large sum of money and are paying it back for years whilst they live there happily with a shiny new roof over their heads. 

    Breaking up with someone you really cared for is absolutely devastating and incredibly hard but don’t screw up your future just because you want to be nice. 

    There should be no major rush to get to the right and fair end result. Don’t feel pressured and rush your decision. Consider what could happen in the future and how you might feel about the impact relevant to your decision now. 

    There would definitely be a benefit to seeking some formal/legal advice for your own part in this before deciding what would be best. Don’t just roll over and let her dictate how things should end between you. You surely deserve better than that! 
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  • cliffordeone
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    £19k to fix the roof? That would usually get you a new roof.
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