Are you thinking of taking the next big step with your partner, i.e. moving in together? Then, prepare yourself for a few very busy months ahead. It’s common knowledge that any house move is stressful, however, it can become even more taxing when a couple decides to start sharing a flat. In order to avoid any unnecessary anxiety during the relocation process, there are a few things you need to take into account. Let’s see what the experts recommend.
Things to consider before moving in together
If you haven’t been a couple for a long time, your pink-coloured glasses might be making it difficult to concentrate on having serious conversations about the future. However, these talks are important, because the way you define your living circumstances will determine what rights you will have when you move in with your partner. That’s why prior to any move, you need to review the legal, financial and personal aspects of your relationship and any changes, which might take place after your move.
What constitutes living together?
According to the Citizens’ Advice, living together (common-law partnership) has no legal definition and the general understanding is that it means a couple is living together without being married.
If you are an unmarried couple, you can sign a living together agreement (cohabitation contract), to formalise certain aspects of your relationship so that the duties, rights and responsibilities of each party are clear. This type of contract, however, does not cover property rights. So, if you were wondering, do common-law partners have rights to property? The answer is: only in certain cases. These include the following:
- There is a written (declaration of trust) agreement, which states that the owner of the property has entitled the non-owner a share of the property
- The non-owner has acted against their own interest on the understanding the act entitles the non-owner to a share of the property
- The non-owner has applied to a court to request the right to stay in the household to ensure the welfare of the non-owner’s children
- The non-owner has contributed financially to the property on the understanding that such payments mean entitlement to a share of the home
Those agreements will come in handy when a dispute occurs because you will already have established the basic foundation of your living circumstances. Think of them as the general rulebook and safety nets of your household. You can find more information on cohabitation here.
Since marriage is a legal union between a couple, it entitles both parties to home rights. This means that whether it’s a rented home or an owned property, both parties have the right to remain in the matrimonial home. Even if the tenancy agreement was made only in the name of one party or there is only one owner listed on the property agreement, only a court order can change the status of the union and, hence, an individual’s home rights.
Civil partnerships are on equal ground with marriage. This means that both parties have home rights. So, regardless of whose name is on the tenancy agreement, only a court can strip either party of its rights to stay in the accommodation by breaking down the civil partnership. If any of you is the sole owner of the property you live in, the other party can be asked to leave and may not have any rights to dispute this request. There are some cases in which you can request a court to grant you the right to stay in the house. But as it is with any family dispute, it’s always best to seek the counsel of a family law solicitor in order to protect your interests.
How to handle finances when moving in together?
Another touchy and tough subject to discuss is personal finances and understanding general attitudes towards spending. Not everyone likes to talk about how much they earn or how much they can contribute on a monthly basis. It gets even more stressful once the topics of personal debt and benefits come up. In order to avoid any future financial and accommodation problems, full disclosure is recommended.
Speaking of financial transparency between partners, don’t forget that for benefit purposes, you will be classed as a household. Therefore, you will need to get reassessed following the house move. If any of you receive benefits, those may change depending on the financial and employment circumstances of your partner. Additionally, if you also claim tax credits, you have one month to notify the tax credits helpline that your partner is living with you. This way you will avoid any overpayment. If you want to get an idea of how things might change after your move, you can use this online benefits calculator.
Will my ESA be affected if my partner moves in?
In general, you aren’t eligible to receive an Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if you work, unless your work is listed as an exception or it falls in the category of the so-called permitted work. There are a few types of work described as such:
- Work, not limited in type and period, and earns you no more than £20/week
- Being employed as part of a treatment programme, while under medical supervision at the same time by staying in or attending a hospital. Your earnings must not exceed £131.50/week.
- Any employment, which earns you less than £131.50/week and requires you to work less than 16 h/week
- Supported work, where you are supervised by someone who is employed to find work for disabled people. It is not limited by period, but your earnings must not be more than £131.50.
The exceptions include:
- Councillor work
- Voluntary work
- Taking care of a relative or another person living with you
- First Tier Tribunal member work (up to one full day or two half days a week)
- Work done while pursuing self-employment (in certain cases where assistance is received)
- Unpaid work experience approved by the Department for Work and Pensions
If you decide to move in with your partner and you claim income-based ESA, it will be affected by your partner’s income and employment. In order to receive your ESA, your partner must not work more than 24 hours/week for any type of paid work. The amount of ESA you are entitled to is affected by your significant other’s income. If you claim Contributory ESA, it will not be affected by your partner’s working hours, because this benefit is based on your national insurance contribution record.
Can I claim universal credit if I live with my partner?
If you or your partner claim Universal Credit, moving in together won’t change your right to receive it. However, if you or your partner are planning to apply for Universal Credit, while receiving a legacy benefit, such as Housing Benefit or Child Tax Credit, you will lose those. This is because Universal Credit is made to replace the six existing legacy benefits.
No comprehensive list of tips for moving in together will be complete without discussing some of the personal aspects of cohabitation. Sometimes couples forget that compatibility is essential when deciding on whether to take their relationship to the next level.
Here are some of the things you need to go over before you take this huge step:
Are you ready?
If you’re a young couple and you’re both just moving out of your parents’ house, living together at first will be a great thrill and joy. But ask yourself what is the main reason for your move. Is it because it feels natural? Or is it financial? Is it just more convenient to live in the same flat? Are there any other underlying issues, which can potentially become a catalyst for a dispute?
Having an open and honest discussion about the reasons behind the relocation, as well as the expectations both sides have once you start living together, is very important. Very often people who avoid such conversations, especially couples who move for the first time, feel disappointed. Their idealistic view of what it’s like to live with your significant other soon clashed with the realities of cohabitation.
Inevitably, your shared daily life will show you other lesser-known sides of your partner. You may find out that your other half has a very noisy hobby, a strange sleep-work pattern, or even a habit that is on your pet’s peeves list. Therefore, you need to talk over your daily routines and other must-haves, which make living together feel smooth and natural. Think about all the things you consider comforting in your life. These can include:
- having more alone time if you’re more introverted than your partner
- loving/hating to do certain chores
- eating specific foods at specific times
- sleeping with the lights on because you’re afraid of the dark
- having your study/work space organised in a certain way
The best-case scenario is if you have some experience of living together for short periods of time and your current circumstances already simulate a home situation.
Compromising is key in any successful relationship, but this has never been truer for couples than when cleaning time comes. If any of you love doing housework, this conversation can be very quick and easy. However, if there are tasks which you don’t like to do, or are too difficult to perform by yourself, this is your chance to tell your partner. Of course, there will be times when one of you will have to take on the other’s duties. But if you have an open conversation about your expectations beforehand, you will have fewer things to worry about in the future.
You can’t escape arguments, but you can learn how to navigate them to avoid any serious damage to your relationship. Living together can put you under unnecessary stress, which can prompt you to express your frustration in an unhealthy manner. Once you establish some ground rules on how to tackle domestic disputes, you will be able to reach solutions that work for everyone involved much faster.
Moving in together with kids
If any or both of you have children who will be living with you after the relocation, you must ask if they feel comfortable with your plans. Provided your child is okay with the move, you will need to take into account their needs, such as living space and conditions, education, friends and other specific requests. This doesn’t mean you have to agree to all of your child’s needs. But you need to make sure that the new living arrangement provides a nurturing environment where your child can develop.
Checklist for moving in together
So now that you know how to prepare before the relocation, here is our step-by-step guide on how to go about the actual move.
Decide on a place to live
Your first action will be to decide if only one of you is moving out or both of you are going to relocate to a new place. A good way to go about this is to:
- see whether both of your belongings will fit in either of your current flats
- establish if any of your homes are closer to current workplaces, frequently-visited locations, shops, schools, etc.
- research which option is more convenient in terms of council tax and utilities
For couples who wish to start afresh, it is recommended to find a new home that will be able to accommodate the needs of both sides, while being free of any past attachments such as mementoes from former partners. This choice also provides an equal ground on which couples can continue to develop their relationship without either party feeling it has to settle into an established life.
Compile a list of essentials
Remember when we talked about spending attitudes? Many people want different luxuries in their homes, however, sometimes they forget that this may cost them a lot of money. That’s why you need to have a more realistic approach. Separate your wants and your needs. Although both can make your lives better in the long run, your list of essentials should include only the most necessary things. These include:
- type of neighbourhood
- proximity to workplace, schools, bus stops, shops, etc.
- living space
- number of bedrooms
- parking spot
- cost of utilities
- space for your pet, if you have one
Everything else – a lavish study, a big garden or more bathrooms – falls in the wants category and should be considered a bonus, provided you have the budget.
Make an inventory of both flats
The third step to moving in together is making an inventory of all of your belongings. There are two reasons for this. The first one is to see if all of your items will fit in your new home. Unless you have a very specific reason to hoard things, it’s never a good idea to stuff your home with unnecessary items as they can become a fire hazard.
The second reason is to see if you have any duplicating items, such as appliances. Why would you need a second microwave oven or a fridge? When you complete your list, set aside the unwanted duplicates and divide them by the way you have chosen to get rid of them.
As you may have guessed, the next logical step is to declutter. You have your pile of unwanted items, now it’s time to decide how to dispose of them. There are a few tried and tested ways to do so:
- Give away to parents and friends
You know what they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure
If none of your close friends or family wish to take a used appliance, you can donate your possessions to a charity of your choice
- Sell online
Another good option is to place your duplicates for sale online. Whether its Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree, you will always find people in need of second-hand items.
- Car boot sale
Finally, if you’re set on personally selling your unwanted belongings, you can participate in a car boot sale. This way, if you’re searching for other items for your new home, you can browse other stalls.
Assess the living space and make a rough plan
Next on your to-do list is to inspect your new living space and check if what’s left of your possessions will fit. This might seem redundant at first, but it’s better to make several assessments and then move everything in one go than having to organize your move in several trips. More often than not, couples realise they have stored a few extra unnecessary items. For example, keeping a fan when your new flat has air conditioning.
Afterwards, make a rough sketch of the layout of your new home. This will not only make it quicker to sort through your belongings once you get them, but it will also make the job easier for the man with van if you decide to hire help.
If, by chance, you still have items that you wish to take with you, but do not fit into the layout of your new place, think about moving some of your belongings into storage. This is the best option for items, which you do not use regularly and still want to keep, such as heirlooms, winter gear and other seasonal items. Most removals companies also offer storage solutions, which is very convenient if you want to transport all of your possessions in one go and save time and money in the process.
It’s moving day! Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated and take regular breaks. Relocation is always stressful and it does take a long time, so rushing through the process won’t do you any good and it can even cause injuries. Before you set out for your new home, label all of your belongings accordingly and make sure you seal the boxes well. If you feel that moving by yourself is too cumbersome a task, you can always rely on the Fantastic Removals team to help you out with your house move.
Arrange and rearrange
Your final task is to unpack and arrange everything in its respective place. Depending on how much time you have spent on your rough sketch in step 5, you may need to rearrange your possessions a few times until you’re done. Combining your personal styles takes time and if they are polar opposites, you may need to compromise for the sake of your relationship. Keep an open mind and always discuss these things with your partner before you take any action.
So, are you ready to move in together?