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Ruling on cohabitees' property rights

Unmarried couples who buy a home together face heavy legal bills and years of uncertainty over ownership if they later split up, lawyers warned yesterday. Patricia Jones, 56, won an appeal at the Supreme Court against an earlier ruling that had given her partner, Leonard Kernott, 51, the right to half of the Essex bungalow they bought in 1985 – despite his having left 18 years ago and not contributed to the mortgage since.

After a three-year legal battle, Ms Jones was awarded 90 per cent of the house she had bought with Mr Kernott. Solicitors said the time and money it had cost both parties proved the need to reform the law on how home ownership disputes are settled outside marriage.

The pair bought the bungalow in Thundersley under joint names and with a joint mortgage for £30,000, with a £6,000 deposit provided by Ms Jones. But Mr Kernott moved out in 1993 when their relationship ended, leaving Ms Jones to pay the rest of the mortgage and most of the costs of raising their two children.