Love, Marriage and Property

Private Property South Africa
Lea Jacobs

Although married life may have its ups and downs, the fact that one of the partners owns the marital home outright does not really affect the partnership. This fact was discovered in a recent survey conducted by Columinate on behalf of Private Property.

When respondents were asked: “Would you say that the fact that you and your spouse do not jointly own the property that you live in has a negative effect on the marriage?” the responses were as follows:

• 13 percent said yes;

• 75 percent said no;

• 12 percent were unsure.

Of those who said that one spouse owning the marital home did not affect the marriage a total of 51 percent said that the fact that the property was in only one of the partner’s names had absolutely no effect on the marriage at all, while 30 percent said that they still make joint financial decisions.

Comments by those who did not feel that the marriage was affected by sole ownership by one spouse were:

• “The property does not determine the value of a marriage.” (Female, coloured, 35 -49 years, homeowner).

• “The house will be left to me if anything happens to my husband, but we have done it that way for financial reasons so if our businesses fail the other won’t be affected by a property grab.” (Female, white, 25 – 29 years, husband owns home, involved in decision-making).

• “We share all financial decisions, even though we don’t jointly own the property.” (Female, coloured, 50 – 59 years, homeowner).

On the whole it appears that one spouse owning the home is not a serious marital issue and this could perhaps be because those despite one partner owning the property the important financial decisions are still made jointly.

Among the 13 percent that said their marriage is affected by single spouse homeownership the reasons cited were:

• “He tends to make decisions without consulting or involving me in them.” (Female, black 35 – 49 years, husband owns home, involved in decision-making).

• “My spouse does not consider it his responsibility to contribute the same as when it was his property.” (Female, white, 39 – 49 years, homeowner).

• “We share all financial decisions, even though we don’t jointly own the property.” (Female, coloured 50 – 59 years, homeowner).

In this group, the major issue appears to be trust issues in the relationship because of single spouse ownership.

Solid marriages are built on trust and in an ideal world the fact that one of the parties owns the marital home should not affect the marriage whatsoever. Homeownership is only part of the financial equation and in today’s modern world one would assume that both parties are involved when making financial decisions. While homeownership may generally be considered the largest asset in a marriage, it is certainly should not the dominant factor in any relationship.

One of the interesting points that was highlighted in the survey is that although the figure was low, some spouses contribute less simply because they are not joint owners or own the property outright. Fortunately, this attitude does not seem to be prevalent and shouldn’t exist at all in a society where equality is the norm.

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