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The Moneyist: I bought a house with my boyfriend. I spent $30K on renovations. Now he wants to split the sale 50/50 — because he lost the receipts

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Dear Quentin,

My boyfriend and I bought a home together a little over four years ago. 

It was a fixer upper and the agreement was when we sell it, we will get back what we put into it, and split the difference.  I put in about $30,000 more in the remodel then he did. 

He now wants to sell the house and move back into his home. I will move back into my two-bedroom, one-bathroom home with the kids, and split the profit 50/50. 

I have reminded him of our agreement and he has since backtracked. He said he doesn’t have his receipts to show what he contributed for the remodel. He wants it split in half and said that Washington state laws will require us to do so, even if I tried to fight it. 


‘Not only did I invest more money towards the remodel, but I paid more than half the bills.’

Needless to say, I am a bit angry and bitter. Not only did I invest more money towards the remodel, but I paid more than half the bills. I continually made improvements on the home. 

I will be moving into a much smaller space, all the while he makes a great profit on a house — we stand to make about $250,000 — that he didn’t participate in a lot.  

In fact, I am working on getting the last remaining improvements done to the home so we can list it, and he’s off enjoying life doing the things he loves and can’t be bothered with it. 

When I do ask for help, I am accused of nagging. We will clearly be parting ways after the sale.  I’ve also offered to buy him out, but he wants half of what we would make if we sold and quite frankly I don’t want to spend that type of money on a home that is making me feel this bitterness.  

Am I out of luck? Will I have to eat the $30,000?

Feeling Wronged

You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at [email protected], and follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitter.

Dear Wronged,

This is a cautionary tale for unmarried homeowners. Assuming that you both own the house under a joint tenancy agreement, and you are both listed as owners on the deed, you have a 50/50 split. Therefore, any additional improvements were done so in good faith and voluntarily. That also protects you. If your boyfriend passed away, his share would pass to you.

If you signed a prenuptial agreement for the house as co-owners clearly stating that you would get back what you put into the house, what happens if one partner dies, and agreeing in advance what you would each pay etc., you would be able to recoup your expenditure. Similarly, you could have owned the house as tenants in common, and decided upon a, say, 55/45 split.

“Unmarried couples in Washington State do not have what some states call, ‘common law marriage,’ but Washington courts do recognize ‘committed intimate relationships,’” according to the Dellino Law Group. “These relationships exist when an unmarried couple lives together for a significant period of time and live in what can be considered a marriage-like relationship.”

“In Washington State, these relationships have property rights and other rights similar to those had by married couples,” the law firm adds. “It is critical that you know and understand the implications of living with an intimate partner in Washington so you can either plan accordingly or know what rights you may have when a relationship like this ends.”

You’re in a Catch 22. What possible motivation would your boyfriend have for keeping receipts that show he paid less money towards the renovation of the house? Of course, he can’t find them. He had 30,000 reasons to mislay them. Before you rule against buying your boyfriend out, consider the costs of buying another home, and the improvements on this one.

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The Moneyist regrets he cannot reply to questions individually.

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