Over a third of Brits who split up with a partner they owned a home with are forced to live them afterwards – for an average of over a year
12th October 2022
1 in 8 who remain living with their ex are forced to continue sharing a bedroom with them
15% say their ex-partner started a new relationship – even having them stay over for the night
13% of couples found themselves involved in a standoff – with neither prepared to move out
But a fifth planned ahead by having an ‘escape fund’ – a secret bank account, specially to allow them to start over in the event of a break up
42% of married respondents say it took them longer to get out of their joint mortgage than it did to get a divorce
Zoopla urges couples to plan ahead to ensure they don’t find themselves in the nightmare scenario of having to live with an ex
Few relationship situations sound worse than being forced to live with someone who you’ve already broken up with. But with the cost of living crisis biting, this is exactly the situation that 34% of those who purchased a home with a partner and then split up have found themselves in.
And we’re not just talking about a few weeks. The new research, from Zoopla, found that couples were forced to live together for an average of 1.3 years after they split up. For 95%, it was at least one month. Unsurprisingly, it was not a pleasant time for most – just 9% say they were able to remain diplomatic. Thirty per cent say it was awkward, 27% say it was upsetting and 22% go as far as to describe it as ‘excruciating’.
Why do people remain living with an ex?
For most, logistics or finance are the main reasons they stay living with an ex they own a home with after a split. Nearly half (47%) say they simply couldn’t afford to move out. Indeed 37% say that they had no savings at all when they and their partner split up, rising to 46% for women. Meanwhile 17% say they stayed living together for the sake of their children, whilst around 1 in 8 (13%) say they were involved in a stand-off with their ex, with neither party prepared to move out.
What is it really like living with an ex?
The research found that for many, living with a former partner immediately post-break up was a miserable experience. Four in ten (40%) say that the atmosphere was constantly bad, and 37% say their ex acted like a different person. A third (33%) say arguments were a common occurrence. There are of course practicalities to contend with as well. Nearly 1 in 8 (12%) say they had to share a bedroom with their ex-partner. Meanwhile, 15% say that their ex-partner began seeing someone else whilst they were still living together and six per cent even said they stayed over.
Rise of the escape fund?
However, many take financial steps to make sure this doesn’t happen to them – often in the form of an ‘escape fund’; a secret savings account that someone’s partner doesn’t know about, that is specifically for the event of a break up. Nearly one in five (18%) say that they had one in place when their relationship ended, whilst more widely, four in ten (39%) say they had some form of secret savings fund their partner didn't know about. On average, the amount of secret savings was £5,586.
Ending mortgages taking longer than ending marriages
There are many financial hurdles to overcome when breaking up with an ex that you own a home with. Amongst those who moved out whilst their partner continued to live in the home they owned together, two thirds (67%) continued to pay their share of the mortgage. Many will have had to pay for a long time - on average, respondents say the process of getting out of the joint mortgage took a year. And of course, many will have also had to pay for alternative accommodation.
Incredibly, 42% of married respondents say that it took them longer to get out of their joint mortgage than it did for them to get divorced. And even once the mortgage did come to an end, 29% had to pay a fee for ending the agreement early – on average a significant £2,643.
Behavioural psychologist and author Jo Hemmings says that the emotional and financial stakes are incredibly high for couples that break up when they own a home together. However, there are steps both parties can take to make it as amicable as possible: “As hard as it can be, the most important thing is to stay civil. This may require a bit of emotional detachment from the situation. It will help with the second step – taking considered, but swift action. When you break up, physical detachment from that person is vital. See if you can stay with a family member or friend for a couple of days to do some real planning and get some perspective.
“The next step is to have the ‘big conversation’ with your ex-partner. Don’t focus on things like who gets what – concentrate on the big, pressing issues. What will the living arrangements be? Will one of you move out? Will you try and sell the home? If there are children involved, when are you going to tell them? A relationship mediator is a good option for couples who find doing this a struggle.”
Daniel Copley, consumer expert at Zoopla says: “As the research shows, it can be very costly to break up - from having to pay rent at a new place, to penalty charges for ending mortgages early. Not to mention how awkward things can get if you are forced to live together in the midst of separating. Whilst it's important to go into a joint purchase with the right protection, there is no avoiding the fact a breakup will be costly and time consuming, leaving people at a loss as to what their options are. We’ve collated a guide that breaks it all down and shows people just what they need to know, do and discuss when purchasing - and if the worst happens, navigate selling their home bought with a partner.”
The guide has been published HERE. As well as advice for those breaking up, it includes guidance on buying a property with a partner, covering the key conversations to have and advice on how to protect your own share in a property.
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