My fiancé postponed our wedding, secretly bought a house—and told me I could pay rent

Dear Moneyist,

I have never been married or bought a home before.

The guy I am with said we would marry on April 18.

He then decided to delay and buy a foreclosure and told me this all on April 16.

I was shocked, to say the least.

He owns a home already and said that he did not plan to put me on the mortgage or deed even after we were married.

I, again, was in shock. He said I could just pay some of the bills and “rent” to him. He claims he did not involve me in getting the loan, because I don’t make as much money as him and that would affect the mortgage rate.

I have very good credit.

He knows this.

I thought my credit could have helped us.

Would it have?

I even offered to sell some of my stocks to help with a down payment. I may have never owned a home or made a substantial amount of money, but my credit is good.

I wanted to enter marriage first and then buy a home together, not have him do this all solo and spring it on me.

I wanted skin-in-the-game, so to speak, so I feel like we both have ownership and a part in this marriage.

Is it a good idea to enter into a marriage like this? Is he just trying to take advantage of my naiveté?

I understand I would not have any rights to the property, even if we got married, is that true?

This house is in Winthrop Harbor, Ill. I wanted him to look at houses right over the border in Pleasant Prairie, Wis. because the taxes are substantially lower. He insisted no.

I thought it odd because he is always about saving money, especially in taxes. My suspicion is that it is differs in property rights somehow. Does it?

What benefits is he getting from all of this?

I don’t feel he is looking out for both of us and, perhaps, is only looking out for himself. Can you enlighten me on how this works and is he trying to take advantage of me?

He is 45 and I am 42.

Would you enter into marriage with someone under these measures?

This would be both of our first marriages.

I don’t want to be made a fool or just keep giving him money as “rent” without ownership of some type. He claims I have a house to live in and I shouldn’t complain.

It makes me sad because everyone I know who is married shares the house mortgage, deed, etc., even if the wife makes less or does not work.

Is it normal for me to think that is just what happens in marriage?

JP

Dear JP,

Should you be a “renter” in a marriage that you had hoped would be a joint venture?

No. You’re looking for a partner in life, so far you’ve gotten a landlord.

That sounds like a really bad start.

What is normal?

You need to find out what is normal—or a better word, healthy—for you. Is it healthy to delay a wedding buy a home, if one partner does not know about it?

No.

There is an unsettling element of subterfuge here.

Of course, one should be very careful about whom you marry, and buy property and/or co-mingle your assets with.

Your boyfriend decided against all of the above, without consulting you first.

That should be enough for you to make your decision about the future of this relationship, given that much of that decision has already been made for you.

Illinois is an equitable distribution state: Marital property is typically divided 50/50, but the ultimate decision is made on what is deemed fair and equitable by the courts.

If a husband or wife paid the down payment and most of the mortgage repayments and the couple divorced, a judge may take that into account when dividing the assets.

Wisconsin is a community property state, on the other hand, so if he bought a house there during your marriage, that’s considered community property.

And, yes, a lender would look at both your credit scores if you decided to buy a home together.

I’ve received all sorts of letters that suggest one should be cautious about co-mingling assets or marrying someone who earns significantly less or has a lot of debt. 

You don’t have a bad credit history and you want to participate financially in your relationship.

I’m thinking of the man who paid off his wife’s student loans and she divorced him after two years.

That story got a lot of comments and feedback, but not because most people enter into marriage with a plan to have their spouse pay their share of the nation’s $1.5 trillion in student debt.

It’s a shocking story because they don’t.

Your boyfriend has behaved in a way that is far beneath most people’s reasonable expectations when embarking on a life together. Let him have his house in Winthrop Harbor—and move on.

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