Court Reiterates Need for Cohabitation Agreement

A man and woman lived together, unmarried, for years.  The parties separated, and the man filed a lawsuit claiming that his ex-girlfriend had been unjustly enriched by funds he contributed to purchase of a house titled solely in her name.  There was no written agreement for reimbursement of expenses or a promissory note signed by the ex-girlfriend.  The man and the woman lived together in the house for many years until she required him to move out.

After trial, the judge found a constructive trust existed and imposed it upon the woman to the extent of $7,000, the amount of the down payment his parents made on the house presumably as a gift to him.   The man argued he should have received credit for mortgage payments that were made out of a joint account where he had regularly deposited his earnings.  However, the trial court and appellate court ruled that any amounts the man had deposited into that account were gifts from him to his female roommate and companion.  He was not entitled to reimbursement or a constructive trust for funds he deposited in the joint account that were used for home improvements, utilities and the mortgage payments.

The appellate court found that the trial court erred in determining that the man and woman were in a “fiduciary relationship”, since there was no evidence that the woman exercised undue influence over the man or that she was in a position of superiority over him.   That finding is important since they should be treated as roommates, not placed in a different relationship that would lead to greater liability to each other.

If you want to read more about the facts and the court’s ruling, click here.