Many legal minds making NZ LAW work

We are an association of independent legal practices, proactively sharing ideas and expertise for the benefit of our clients.

We’re buying a house together

Published: 19th November 2020

Author: Mia Petrovic, Simpson Western

Published in: Fineprint

Time for a contracting out agreement?
You have had years of saving up for the overseas experience many New Zealanders dream of — then a pandemic hits. The London job you thought you had in the bag is no longer an option, and you and your partner are faced with extending the lease on your flat here — that you were eagerly awaiting to escape. What do you do now?

In 2020, many couples have found themselves cashing out what would have been their big OE savings stash and using it for a house deposit. Others have leapt at the banks’ lower interest rates to extend their borrowing and have bought properties that were unattainable only a year ago. All over the country, and particularly in Auckland, the property market is flooded with returning expats who are establishing roots back here — often earlier than anticipated.

We have seen an exponential uptake of investment in property, among young couples in particular. Part and parcel of getting a deposit together is that, quite often, many couples’ initial cash contributions to fund the deposit are different. This may not be an issue at the time of purchase, but if you and your partner or spouse break up, this difference could become a major sticking point.

Get a contracting out agreement
In order to protect your contribution to your property purchase, you should enter into a contracting out agreement (more commonly referred to as ‘a pre-nup’ or ‘pre-nuptial’, even if you are not married).

Through this agreement, couples can stipulate their own rules for the classification and division of their assets in case they separate or one of them dies. Without a binding contracting out agreement, the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 (PRA) will determine how your assets are split if you separate. Under this legislation, the home you live in as a couple is generally deemed to be ‘relationship property’ — meaning it is an asset that is likely to be divided equally between you both, even if one party contributed more towards the purchase.

A contracting out agreement can be entered into at any time. It is recommended, however, that couples enter into a contracting out agreement before they have been in a relationship for three years (which is generally when the equal sharing principles of the PRA apply).

How it works
Let’s look at the example of Emma and Tane. Emma has $10,000 of cash savings and a further $20,000 from her KiwiSaver that is available for withdrawal. Meanwhile, Tane has been in the workforce longer and has cash savings of $30,000, he has $55,000 in available KiwiSaver funds and Tane’s parents are gifting him $40,000 to assist in his first home purchase.

With $155,000 as a deposit, Emma is contributing $30,000 and Tane $125,000 to the purchase price of what will be their family home and relationship property. Without a contracting out agreement, if their relationship ends, the equity in the family home is likely to be divided 50:50.

In this situation, it is prudent for Emma and Tane to enter into a contracting out agreement to effectively ring-fence these initial contributions. An agreement could stipulate that, in the event the house is sold or Emma and Tane separate, Emma would receive $30,000, Tane would receive $125,000, any mortgage and costs of sale are repaid in full, and the balance is split equally between Emma and Tane. A mechanism such as this protects initial contributions from Emma and Tane, while acknowledging their contributions to their home through equally sharing in any equity increase.

Although there are other options for Emma and Tane — such as owning their home in unequal shares to acknowledge their unequal initial contributions — a contracting out agreement is still needed to establish the unique rules for Emma and Tane’s relationship property. Without an agreement, if Tane and Emma separate after three or more years together, the PRA would apply and the proceeds of the sale of the family home are likely to be shared equally, which Tane may consider to be unfair.

Couples should be aware that it is not just their home that comes under the rules of the PRA. Incomes, KiwiSaver, company shares, chattels and most assets acquired during the relationship also come into play under the legislation. A contracting out agreement can dictate and pre-empt how all assets will be classified and divided.

When you may not need an agreement
If a couple contributes relatively similar amounts to the purchase of their property — all those OE travel savings have added up to similar-sized piggy banks — a contracting out agreement is perhaps not necessary.

Buying your first home is an exciting chapter for any couple. If 2020 has taught us anything, however, it is to expect the unexpected. It may feel inconceivable that you and your partner may separate, but none of us know what the future may hold. Should your relationship go pear-shaped, your contracting out agreement may become your greatest friend to guide your separation and set up your new life.

 

Related Articles

  • Auckland
  • Bay of Plenty
  • Canterbury
  • Coromandel
  • Gisborne
  • Hawke's Bay
  • Kapiti Coast
  • Manawatu - Wanganui
  • Marlborough
  • Nelson
  • Northland
  • Otago
  • Southland
  • Taranaki
  • Waikato
  • Wairarapa
  • Wellington
  • West Coast

Simpson Western

Simpson Western is a leading law firm in Auckland North, with offices in Takapuna and Silverdale.

The firm has ten partners, supported by a team of specialist lawyers, legal executives and a general manager, together with a team of excellent support staff.

Region: Auckland

Phone: 09 486 3058

Jackson Reeves Lawyers

Jackson Reeves is a long established law firm that has been providing quality legal services in Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty region for over 60 years. We have proven expertise in business and personal law and deliver high calibre legal advice and solutions that work for you.

Choosing a law firm is not always an easy decision but you can take comfort in the knowledge that Jackson Reeves take a client focussed approach, providing specialist and practical legal services. Old fashioned virtues, like integrity, transparency and trust are of importance to us and we value quality, relationships and diversity.

Region: Bay of Plenty

Phone: 07 578 2129

Argyle Welsh Finnigan

Argyle Welsh Finnigan is a leading law firm in Ashburton,  the town servicing mid Canterbury, New Zealand.

The firm employs a team of over 25 legal professionals, including three Senior Associate Solicitors, three Staff Solicitors and five Legal Executives.  Our firm provides quality legal services with a commitment to our clients and to understanding their individual needs and requirements. 

With more than one hundred years of combined legal experience, we are able to offer prompt and professional advice on a wide range of legal matters.

Region: Canterbury

Phone: 03 308 8228

Purnell Lawyers

There is nothing as inevitable as change. Since opening for business early last century, we at Purnell Lawyers have seen many changes both in name and in the people who have made up the members of our team. We have been privileged to have served the public throughout all of these times. 

We are confident that we will continue to bring top quality legal services to our clients well into the future.

Region: Coromandel

Phone: 07 868 8680

Woodward Chrisp

At Woodward Chrisp we strive to meet the needs of our clients by providing a wide range of high quality legal services within a supportive and collaborative environment.

Woodward Chrisp is the amalgamation of two long established Gisborne legal firms: Woodward Iles & Co and Chrisp and Chrisp. Today’s partners are Ross Revington, Adam Simperingham, Jeff Allen and Ellie FitzGerald.

Region: Gisborne

Phone: 06 869 0900

Gifford Devine

For all life’s matters, the team at Gifford Devine have your back. Since 1896, our lawyers have been providing straight-talking, practical advice and advocacy to people, families and businesses in Hawke’s Bay.

As your legal champions, we’ll serve you as a trusted adviser, listen to your needs, offer plain English advice, and find a solution to get you the best possible outcome.

We have the expertise to identify potential legal issues, to help you make important decisions, and to realise your goals. We’re your legal champions for all reasons and at all stages of life.

Region: Hawke's Bay

Phone: 06 873 0420

BMC Lawyers

BMC lawyers has built a reputation for providing quality service and delivering real results. Our strength is our broad-ranging legal experience that gives us the ability to match clients with the right mix of legal skills for their particular needs.

Our legal professionals are passionate about what they do and work alongside a talented team of support and administration staff to make a real positive difference to our clients.”

Region: Kapiti Coast

Phone: 04 296 1105

CS Law

Looking after you, your family, and the small print.

Region: Manawatu - Wanganui

Phone: 06 368 9239

Wain & Naysmith

Based in Blenheim, Wain & Naysmith Lawyers is a full service law firm, and a powerhouse for property, family and business law.

We pride ourselves in providing clear and cost effective legal solutions and practical advice for you, your family and your business.

Region: Marlborough

Phone: 03 520 6103

Knapps Lawyers

As a firm, we promise to look after you and treat you in a manner that we would expect to be treated by a professional services provider; we promise to use every available legal remedy available to us to resolve your issue and to do what you ask us to do in a timely manner.

We will hold in strict confidence all information that we acquire through our work for you and which concerns your business or personal information.  The only exceptions are where you authorise us to disclose such information or where we must do so by law.

Region: Nelson

Phone: 03 544 7888

Thomson Wilson

Thomson Wilson is a full service law firm based in Whangarei. We’ve been trusted lawyers for the Northland community and beyond for 75 years.

We act for individuals and families, businesses, public sector and other organisations. Whether you need no-fuss advice on a simple matter, or a team of legal experts. 

Our staff provide advice in most areas of the law, including property law, business law, trusts and estates, separation and divorce, resource management, criminal law and more.

We also offer expertise in specialist areas such as Maori land, local government law, farming and forestry.

Region: Northland

Phone: 09 430 4380

Mactodd

MacTodd is a leading South Island law firm with a national reputation for its experience and expertise across a wide range of the law.

Serving the local community and national and offshore clients for over 40 years, MacTodd prides itself on being a fully comprehensive law firm with an innovative approach, meeting the demands and time zones of its diverse clientele.

MacTodd's hallmark is our friendly and professional approach. Our state-of-the-art technology provides an accurate, efficient and cost-effective service.

Region: Otago

Phone: 03 441 0125

Cruickshank Pryde

We are proud to provide a full suite of legal services to the regions of Southland and Central Otago. With our offices, located in Invercargill, Gore and Queenstown, equipped with the latest modern technology, we can service wider New Zealand and international clients with ease. Our areas of expertise include commercial, rural, business, employment, family, criminal, property, resource management and estate planning law.

Region: Southland

Phone: 03 214 4069

Welsh McCarthy

Welsh McCarthy practises in Hawera, South Taranaki. Predominant industries in the South Taranaki district are dairy farming, oil and gas. The South Taranaki area also has the largest one-site multi product milk processing facility in the world

We deal with company and commercial transactions, commercial and family law, farm and residential sales and purchases, estate planning and family and charitable trusts. A large part of the firm also deals in the area of family law.

Region: Taranaki

Phone: 06 278 5039

Edmonds Judd

Edmonds Judd is based in Te Awamutu with an office in Otorohanga and continues to proudly serve the Waikato District as it has done for over 100 years. Known as a firm that generations of families have relied on and looked to for advice and assistance in both the good times and the bad, Edmonds Judd is the friendly and trusted name in legal services. Blending experience with cutting edge technology, which is rivalled only by the level of service and satisfaction which is provided to its loyal clients. Edmonds Judd’s friendly staff are more than happy to assist you in any enquiry you may have.

We will provide you with:

  • Smart and innovative legal thinking
  • Plain and simple language, instead of legal jargon
  • Decades of knowledge and broad perspectives from our widely experienced team
  • Access to the resources and skills of the NZ LAW group that Edmonds Judd is a member of.
  • You’ll have the knowledge of over 55 independent law firms behind you.

Region: Waikato

Gawith Burridge

Gawith Burridge traces its history back to 1875 when Charles Gawith first set up his practice. Since then the firm has undergone many changes, including a merger between Gawith & Co and Burridge & Co in 1998 to form our current practice.

Our firm draws on the breadth of expertise available from some of the region’s most senior legal practitioners, as well as the skills of those who have moved here from larger corporate environments.

As a result, we provide clients with a comprehensive range of legal services right here in the Wairarapa. We can provide you with legal assistance whether you are an individual or a company, with everything from setting up a Will to selling your farming business. 

Region: Wairarapa

Phone: 06 370 0000

Gillespie Young Watson

We specialise in Property, Commercial and Trust Law. When it comes to law firm size we are bigger than smaller and smaller than big. By limiting the work we do to our specialist areas, we like to think we bring together the best of big firm skill sets with the personal care, attention and relationships of small firms.

We expect our clients to receive clear, practical and timely advice. We place a premium on accessibility and convenience to our clients. We value and appreciate all of our clients and want to do the best possible job for each of them. When we close a file we want the client to feel they have received exceptional advice, service and value.

Region: Wellington

Phone: 04 569 3997

Hannan & Seddon

The Law Firm of Hannan & Seddon dates back to September 1867.

The firm's offices were in Werita Street from 1867 until 1982 when the firm moved to Tarapuhi Street and then to its current spacious premises at 61 Guinness Street in 1998.

The name Hannan comes from Mr Michael Hannan whose son John Hannan (Jack) joined the firm in 1908. Jack Hannan remained in partnership until he passed away in 1974 at the age of 90!

The name Seddon comes from Mr T E Y Seddon (son of Premier Richard John Seddon from Kumara) who joined the firm in the 1920's. The other prominent Solicitor at Hannan & Seddon was Cyril McGinley who joined the firm in the late 1920’s and retired as a Consultant in 1997 aged 87.

Currently we have two Partners within our firm. Tony Sullivan who has been with us for 29 years and Colin Smith, 26 years. The firm also has two long serving Legal Executives Elaine Knowles and Beverley Walsh.  

Region: West Coast

Phone: 03 768 4169

All the information published on this website, or in any article herein is true and accurate to the best of the authors' knowledge. Information on this site should not be a substitute for legal advice. No liability is assumed by NZ LAW Limited, or individual NZ LAW member firms for losses suffered by any person or organisation relying directly or indirectly on information published on this site. Views expressed in any article are the views of the authors individually and do not necessarily reflect the view of NZ LAW or their member firms. Information appearing on this site may only be reproduced with prior approval from NZ LAW Limited Head Office, and credit being given to the source. © NZ LAW Limited