Questions to Ask Before Co-Owning a Home

Disclaimer: This article is intended for the purpose of providing information on co-owning a house only. It is to be used only for the purposes of guidance. This article is not intended to be relied upon as the giving of legal advice and does not purport to be exhaustive.

Entering the real estate market in Ontario is becoming increasingly difficult, with the average home in Toronto now selling for roughly $1.2 million. Faced with this reality, some people are choosing to co-own property with friends or family members.

In fact, one report indicates that family members are providing financial help for up to 30% of new home purchases. Of course, there are other scenarios where you may want to co-own a property, such as a group of friends getting together to buy a vacation home.

Regardless of the circumstances, there are many considerations to think about before owning a home with anyone, including your family members. (Note: there are different limitations under the Family Law Act for the matrimonial home).

Of course, each situation is unique (and we would be happy to discuss your situation with you). However, here are three key questions to ask yourself before co-owning a home with anyone:

Do I really need a co-ownership agreement?

Yes. Unequivocally, no questions asked, you should absolutely have a co-ownership agreement in place. 

But it’s my mother, father, sibling, best friend since kindergarten and we always get along.

Agreements can become disagreements, even amongst the closest of friends and family. As well, having an agreement can also ensure that you’ve considered different scenarios and are on the same page.

Who is responsible for maintaining the property? You should outline in the agreement who is responsible for maintaining the property and to what extent.

What if one owner wants to sell? It’s important to consider what will happen if one of the owners would like to sell. Who will be responsible for securing a new co-owner? What if the departing owner wants to sell their share back to the remaining owners? These are all important questions that your agreement should answer.

What if someone wants to make changes to the property, like an addition or a new roof? Such changes could be expensive and may require the consent of all owners. It’s important that everyone is on the same page and agrees to any proposed changes, big or small.

Will there be rental income from tenants? If so, how will you divide that income? For example, if two friends are co-owners and one friend lives in the property while the other rents out their bedroom to a tenant, how will you divide the rental income?

If a parent is co-owning the home to help their child qualify for a mortgage, how will that gift be treated when it’s time to sell? Let’s say, for example, a child and parent own a property using a 70-30 split. In the absence of a co-ownership agreement, the parent would be entitled to 30% of the sales proceeds. The parent may want their full investment returned and that should be spelled out in the co-ownership agreement.

A co-ownership will address all these situations, as well as who will own the the property and how you will handle any disagreements (i.e. by mediation, arbitration, etc.)

What are the implications of co-owning a property?

Let’s talk about the scenario of two people co-owning a home.

a picture of a home. you may be thinking of co-owning a home.

If one person is a first-time homebuyer and the other is not, their eligibility for the land transfer tax credit would be affected. The tax credit would be reduced proportionately to the ownership of the property.

For example, a child (a first-time homeowner) and parent (not a first-time homeowner) equally divide the purchase of a property. The child’s 50% ownership would entitle them to 50% of the land transfer tax credit. Knowing this, you may structure the ownership differently. The parent may have a smaller share of the property to maximize that credit.

On the other hand, the parent should fully understand the implications as far as any mortgage is concerned, as the parent may be fully accountable for any default.

As with any property, all parties will want to ensure that there are mechanisms in place if one of the parties passes away. Of course, you would want to talk to an estate lawyer to ensure that you cover all your bases.

How Can I Protect My Interests when co-owning a house?

These are just a few key things to consider when co-owning a property. As with any legal document, it’s important that you seek legal advice to ensure that you can protect your interests.

We have helped many co-owners document their intentions and be able to purchase their property. Have the peace of mind of knowing that you’ve considered all the key issues and have a plan in place.

If you’re thinking of co-owning a property and would like more information, please contact us. We would be happy to help.

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