Signing a declaration of trust was the best financial decision I ever made... here's what happened.

I wouldn’t have been able to buy this house, especially with Norfolk prices, without my ex signing a declaration of trust or the market being in such demand at the time of sale.

Phillippa Koushk-Jalali

Could you tell me a little bit about you and your life?

I’m a 31 old teacher, and I live in Norfolk with my little dog. I have the most supportive family that have really been the most amazing they could have been over the last 18 months or so. I had previously bought a house with my fiancé but the relationship ended weeks before the wedding. Luckily, he signed a declaration of trust stating he had no stake in the property, & if he hadn’t I’d have lost half my deposit as well as having to share the gain on the house when sold. I’ve recently moved from my 4 bed forever home to a 3 bed, much more affordable house that I’m slowly making my own. I wouldn’t have been able to buy this house, especially with Norfolk prices, without my ex signing a declaration of trust or the market being in such demand at the time of sale.

What happened with your ex?

We got engaged during lockdown, and I spent lockdown teaching online and planning our wedding for October 2021. We offered on a house in January 2021 and moved in in the June. We’d been living together about 18 months by then, known each other over 12 years but only been together about 2.5/3. The week we got the keys, my ex got out of the van at work and tore a ligament in his leg. His company blamed him and he ended up with no case- after seeing footage it was clear he hadn’t followed the health and safety requirements. He was off work for 3 months on statutory sick which only just covered his car finance.

Moving into our brand new forever home was great, but the first few months without his contribution was really hard. My family paid the monthly mortgage repayment twice and his once, and I covered all the bills and kept us fed. At the end of September I caught covid and was hospitalised for 5 days. Coming out of hospital, I was signed off for the whole of October and being a teacher that teaches a practical subject, I needed every day to recover. We decided to postpone the wedding- there was no way I could have enjoyed the day- but luckily all our suppliers were available in February 2022 so it was quickly moved. An email and a message on our wedding website went to our friends and family informing them of the new date. I went back full time after October half term. The first week was gruelling- I probably should have had a phased return in hindsight as I show signs of long covid even now.

By firework night we had a huge argument, these were common with the stress of him being off work and me being poorly. I reiterated during this argument how much I don’t want children (something everyone who knows me knows I’ve said for years) and he looked at me like I’d never said it before. We cried, we went and saw fireworks and not much more was said. On the Sunday morning I saw a local venue post about a wedding fair I said to him, “oh they have a wedding fair, shall we go? Or are you going to leave me?”. He looked at me blankly and said, “ I think I am”. He packed a bag and left me and the dog, dumbstruck. Within 12 hours, school friends I hadn’t spoken to in years shared his tinder profile with me, concerned. And within 24 hours he was back at the house trying to apologise. I told him fundamentally we don’t want the same thing, what’s the point? One of us will end up miserable.

Yes I’d had doubts, he struggled with mental health and his accident and his lack of drive was something that really got me down. Maybe us not getting married was something I’d thought about but wasn’t brave enough to vocalise.

How come you had a declaration of trust in place?

We didn’t. We used my deposit from a previous property I had and money gifted from my family to buy the house. Because I loved him and we were getting married when I filled out the paperwork, I put 50/50. Please never do this when money is involved no matter what your heart says! When he left, I got legal advice. A friend had gone through something similar and she recommended a declaration of trust. I was recommended a fab firm by a colleague and the whole thing with the change of land registry cost about £800 which in my eyes was worth every penny.

He tried to fight it, and asked for the dog which was laughable as he didn’t want a dog in the first place. He also got legal advice who told him point blank not to sign but thankfully he did anyway. He signed and waived any right to the property. The land registry was changed and even though we were “tenants in common” as his name was still on the mortgage, he was entitled to nothing from the eventual house sale. He received the money back that his parents gifted us to go towards the wedding, which apparently he has since spent rather than using it to save for his own house in the future.

Would you say it’s the best financial decision you’ve ever made?

A few months after the declaration was sorted, I decided to market the house- a single person didn’t need a 4 bed house and financially paying the mortgage and bills on my own was so difficult. My parents were paying my shopping bill each month to keep me going. Financially, this was the best decision. I bought my first house with a £7.5k deposit, and this grew to £22k to put the deposit on this house but due to the crazy market at the time, the house was valued at £70k more than was paid for it just 9 months prior. I should have protected my assets and it’s something I will always do in future.

What’s your advice to someone who thinks their relationship will never end and so doesn’t want to do something like a declaration of trust?

Please, please, please make sure at least your land registry is filled out explaining the % of deposit and that you require this back in the eventuality of a future sale before then splitting the profits (if any). Please get legal advice from solicitors. A declaration of trust will protect you and what you’ve worked hard to accumulate. If your partner has an issue with this, maybe that’s something to throw up red flags as to why.