Buying a house is a huge investment and one that we protect, without hesitation, through various insurances.

But the same consideration is not always given to how a new relationship might affect what is often the biggest investment you will make in your lifetime.

In the heat of the moment you could be risking half the value of your hard-earned home, by not adequately safeguarding your investment.

Under New Zealand relationship property law, the general position is if two people live together in a de facto relationship for three years or longer, they each have a 50% claim on the home and chattels, regardless of their financial contribution.

Take someone who has diligently paid off their mortgage and is the proud owner of a freehold home. A relatively new live-in relationship could expose half of their investment to a relationship property claim.

Or, a couple might choose to invest unequal contributions, but by law, if they don’t contract out of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976, their shares will default to the 50:50 rule.

It is also important to differentiate between owning property as joint tenants or tenants in common. The former means in the event of your death the property passes to the surviving co-owner, while the latter allows that share to be passed to those set out in your Will. This is particularly important if you have children from an earlier relationship, whose inheritance you want to protect.

It is always easier, and more cost-effective, to address these issues at the outset, by obtaining sound legal advice.

Want to find out more? Lyon O’Neale Arnold is holding a free Relationship Property Seminar at Tauranga Library, on Wednesday, September 12, at 5.30pm – 6.30pm. To register, phone 07 577 7177 or email