Third of co-owning UK couples who break up forced to stay living together

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A third of home-owning couples in the UK stay living together after they split up, research suggests, for an average of more than a year.

About 95% of these couples spend at least a month in the same home post-breakup – and on average the cohabitation with their former partner lasts 1.3 years, according to the data firm Mortar Research.

Almost half of them carried on living together because they could not afford to move out, with 37% of respondents saying they had no savings at all, a situation that is expected to worsen because of the cost of living crisis.

The research also showed how many people prepare for a potential breakup: four in 10 had a secret savings fund hidden from their partner, with the average amount saved being £5,586.

“There’s no getting away from the fact that breaking up is expensive, from having to shell out for a new place, to penalty charges for ending a mortgage early,” said Daniel Copley, consumer expert at the property website Zoopla.

For those unable to leave their shared property, the emotional toll was clear. About 40% of respondents said the atmosphere was “constantly bad”, while a third said arguments were common. More than 10% found themselves involved in a standoff with their now ex-partner, whereby neither was prepared to move out. A similar proportion had to share a bedroom post-breakup.

One significant obstacle in leaving the home was the difficulty in getting out of a joint mortgage. Just under a third of respondents had to pay an average fee of £2,643 to leave their agreement, while 42% of those who were married said it took them longer to get out of their joint mortgage than it did for them to get divorced.

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Among those who moved out while their former partner continued to live in the home they co-owned, two-thirds continued to pay their share of the mortgage for an average of a year.

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But despite these difficulties, “people can take steps to plan ahead”, said Copley. “I’d strongly encourage homeowners to protect their share in a property through legal avenues such as a deed of trust. This allows those who jointly purchased a home to protect their share of the investment – money they can then use to get back on their feet.”

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