Common Law Couple home ownership


Couples that live together without being legally married are often under the false impression that they have the same property rights as their married counterparts….but they may not.

For starters, to qualify for equal ownership of the house, building or property, you need both of your names on title. You also need to sign a cohabitation agreement that includes that provision or a court makes the determination. Without these legal documents signed, sealed and delivered, a partner or ‘spouse’ is only entitled to support and not a division of the property.

Defining your rights and responsibilities is key in a cohabitation arrangement especially if either of you entered the relationship with valuable property that you acquired on your own without the assistance of your current partner.

There seems to be plenty of confusion around the legal definition of what constitutes a common law relationship. Many think you are deemed a ‘common law spouse’ after living together for one year, but under the Ontario Family Law Act, spouse is defined as a person who has cohabitated continuously for not less than three years. You’re also deemed a spouse if you have a natural or adopted child together.

If your name is not on title and you haven’t signed a cohabitation agreement, there is some legal recourse especially for those involved in lengthy common law relationships. It’s known as a constructive trust claim. If one party demonstrates that the other received a benefit and suffered a loss as a result of the other receiving the benefit then the court may determine that the person suffering the loss is owed by the other party. Bear in mind, that these claims are tough to make and not always successful.

Since unlike marriage, there is no automatic legal right for common law partners to share in the value of each other’s property once the relationship breaks down ensure that you’re a) either okay with that eventuality or b) not okay with it. In that case, get your name on title and make sure you and your partner sign a cohabitation agreement.

For more information on Family Law, please visit the Ministry of the Attorney General website at

Jennifer Birch

Look Up! Create a new ceiling with flair

Luxury house with open floor plan. Cozy living room in light tones with comfortable sofa and coffee table

When thinking of ceilings most times what comes to mind is the popcorn (stucco) ceiling, or one that’s just white and flat. But, if you are looking to update your room, there are some really beautiful options out there to spice up your ceiling and add some flair to your room’s fifth wall.

The most common way to give your ceiling a makeover is with paint. It’s affordable and can really update the look of the space. There is no right or wrong colour to choose, as lighter colours on the ceiling expand space, while dark colours add warmth. You can create contrast in the room by painting the ceiling dark in a light or neutral room and vise versa. If you match the ceiling paint colour to the wall colour, it creates the illusion of a taller space. It can be as dramatic as you want it to be.

Wallpaper is another option. It allows you to be as fun or sophisticated as you want – choose damask and textured wallpaper for a luxurious look; choose brightly coloured patterned wallpaper for a truly unique look and a conversation starter!

Adding tiles or planks is a great way to add style and conceal ceiling damage too. There are several to choose from like square or rectangular tiles or planks made of PVC vinyl, laminate, or mineral fiber. Tin tiles have become a popular choice for ceilings, especially in restaurants and chic boutiques. Why not mimic the same look in your home? They provide a classy, yet vintage-urban vibe. Embossed tin-plated steel tiles often reproduce mid-1800s patterns. Or choose polystyrene ceiling tiles, made of extruded polystyrene (high density styrofoam). They are light, elegant, moisture proof, paintable, easy to clean and can be installed directly over the popcorn ceiling.

Other ceiling options that can be explored are vaulted, beam, sculptural, tray, cathedral, cove, suspended, and drop ceilings.

A new ceiling will definitely turn some heads and add a dramatic new look to your home!

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

Settling into School before September rush

Family walking down sidewalk of neighborhood

Many people, especially those with school-age children, try to plan their move day before that September rush. But once you’ve landed in your new home, what can you do to settle in quickly?

Even before you move, use the Internet to tour your new area. Google Maps has a street view of nearly everywhere now. You can see your new house and take a virtual walk down the street! Make a note of the location of coffee shops, community centres, your kid’s schools, playgrounds, the grocery store and all those daily essentials.

Connect with your children’s new school(s) as soon as possible. It’s summer holidays so you may not be able to get into the school, but at least visit the school grounds to help your kids get comfortable with the idea of a new school.

Plan a “tourist day” with your family. Contact the local tourist office or city hall and get a map of the area. Then, walk around and visit the local cafés, ice cream shops, library and community centre. Chat with the shop owners and introduce yourself as new to the area. People are generally very happy to share their knowledge about their hometown.

Community centres and your local library often have great summer programs for kids and families that will help you meet people. Make sure you sign up for your community newspaper as well. Make a promise to yourself to meet one new person a week. It will make a huge difference in making your new community home!

Spend time in your front yard. You’ll have more opportunity to meet your neighbours. Don’t be afraid to knock on your neighbours’ doors and introduce yourself as well. They’re sure to be just as curious about you!

Jennifer Birch – Realtor

Millennial home buying trends


According to a recent survey by, potential homebuyers in the 25-34 year-old range are feeling positive about the prospect of leaping into home ownership in 2015.
Some 12,000 “millennials” – those born between 1980 and 1999 – took part in the survey between January 1, 2015 and June 15, 2015. Findings indicated that strong sales would be seen in the latter half of the year with more first-time buyer sales. As one of the largest demographics of homebuyers, first-time buyers (who often fall in the millennial age range) have a large impact on the real estate market.
Since the beginning of the year, observed a slight increase in older millennials – those between the ages of 25 and 34 years old – visiting its website and mobile applications with the goal of buying a home. By mid-June, the site observed that those looking for property to rent decreased to 20 percent, from 26 percent in January.
Another revealing metric is the number of millennials who intend to buy a home within the next three months. In mid-June, 65 percent of 25-34 year olds responding to the survey indicated that they intend to buy a home within three months, up from 54 percent in January.
Here in Canada, low interest rates have served as a stepping stone for older millennials looking to purchase their first home. But not without a helping hand. BMO’s 2015 Home Buying Report found that 42 percent of first-time buyers are relying on financial assistance from Mom and Dad to help pay for their first home.
In addition, many first-time buyers are opting for condominiums in order to keep costs down. In major urban centres across the country, so-called “micro condos’ are popping up, offering prices as low as $100,000 for a cozy 350 square-feet of living space.
Jennifer Birch – Realtor