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TOLATA: Cohabitation and Shared Property


explaining what TOLATA is

When it comes to cohabitation and shared property, disputes can arise that often require legal resolution. The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, commonly known as TOLATA, provides a legal framework for resolving disputes related to property ownership and interests between cohabiting parties. In this article, we will delve into TOLATA claims, explaining what they are, when they apply, and how they can be resolved.


TOLATA, is designed to deal with disputes concerning the ownership of land or property when the parties involved have no formal written agreement. This often occurs in cases of cohabitation, where unmarried couples have shared property and financial interests.

When do TOLATA claims apply?

TOLATA claims typically apply in the following situations:

  • Unmarried Couples: TOLATA claims are most commonly associated with unmarried couples who have lived together and jointly own property. Unlike married couples, unmarried cohabitants do not have the same legal protections and rights, which is where TOLATA comes into play.
  • No Formal Agreement: TOLATA claims are relevant when there is no formal agreement in place regarding the ownership and distribution of the property. This means that even if one party has contributed more financially, there may still be a dispute over ownership.
  • Disagreement on Property Interests: TOLATA claims can be used when there is a dispute over how the property should be divided or who has a stake in it. This often arises when one party wants to sell the property, while the other wishes to continue living in it.

How are TOLATA claims resolved?

Resolving TOLATA claims can be a complex and time-consuming process, often requiring legal intervention. Here are the steps typically involved:

  • Negotiation: Initially, parties involved in a TOLATA claim may attempt to negotiate a settlement outside of court. This can involve reaching an agreement on property ownership or distribution of proceeds from a sale.
  • Mediation: If negotiation fails, parties may opt for mediation, where an impartial third party helps facilitate communication and reach a compromise.
  • Court Proceedings: If negotiation and mediation are unsuccessful, the case may proceed to court. The court will examine the evidence, consider each party’s contributions, and make a ruling based on the principles of fairness and equity.
  • Court Orders: The court may issue various orders, including orders for sale, orders for the transfer of property, or orders specifying each party’s ownership interest.
  • Costs and Legal Fees: It’s important to note that pursuing a TOLATA claim can be expensive, and parties may be responsible for their own legal fees and court costs.


TOLATA claims are a crucial legal recourse for unmarried cohabitants facing disputes over shared property. However, it’s essential to remember that prevention is often better than cure. To avoid TOLATA claims, unmarried couples should consider creating clear and legally binding agreements regarding property ownership and financial contributions. Seeking legal advice when purchasing property together can also help prevent future conflicts.

If you find yourself in a TOLATA dispute, it’s advisable to consult with a qualified legal professional who specialises in property and family law. They can guide you through the process and help you navigate the complexities of TOLATA claims.

Qaiser Ahmed – Private Client Solicitor

Find Qaiser on LinkedIn

Dated:  07.11.2023

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