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Relationship breakdown

This section is designed to help you work out the options and rights you have to your home when you split up from a partner. This area of law is very complex and you may need to get legal advice from a solicitor who specializes in family law.

Rights if you rent your home

Occupancy rights

If you are separating from your partner, your rights to remain in or return to your rented home or to make your partner leave will depend on whether you are married or in a civil partnership and whose name is on the tenancy agreement.

A tenancy agreement is a contract between the landlord and tenant setting out your rights to live in a rented property. If your name is on the tenancy agreement, either as a joint tenant or as a sole tenant, you have a contractual and legal right to live in the property. If your name is not on the tenancy agreement, your rights to live in the property once you and your partner have split up will depend on your relationship status.

My partner and I are married or in a civil partnership

If you are married, even if your name is not on the tenancy agreement you automatically have a right to stay in the home even after your relationship ends, provided you are still legally married .Your rights are called 'home rights’ and can only be ended by divorce or death.

On 5 December 2005, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force, allowing applicants of the same sex to apply for civil partnerships. On termination of the partnership, the parties will have the same rights to financial relief as married couples on divorce provided for in the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

My partner and I live together

If you live together, but your name is not on the tenancy agreement, you would not automatically be able to stay in the home if your partner wants you to leave, even if you have children. However you can apply to the county or magistrate court for an occupation order, which could allow you to stay in the family home for up to 12 months.

Your rights if your partner moves out

Most tenancy agreements include a condition that a tenant has to live in the property and use it as their only or main home. If the tenant breaks this condition and moves out leaving you behind, their landlord can end the tenancy.

If you are a joint tenant and your partner leaves you, the landlord could not evict you. As joint tenants, you and your partner are both jointly and independently liable for the whole rent. This means that if your partner disappears, you will become responsible for paying all the rent.

Owner occupiers

If you are married or in a civil partnership with someone who is an owner, you have home rights. 'Home rights' is a legal term that generally means that you can live in your home as if you were the owner.

If you are living with someone but are not the sole or joint tenant or owner, you will need to apply for an occupation order if you want to get home rights, which would allow you to stay in the home. Home rights will only last as long as the occupation order does. However, courts do not usually grant an occupation order in these circumstances. Exceptions might be if you have children and you have no alternative accommodation, or if there is proof of domestic violence or abuse. If you want to establish long-term rights to the home, you will have to go to court to prove beneficial interest.

If you and your spouse are owner-occupiers, it is often the case that only one of you is the actual owner. If this is the case, and you are the partner who is not the owner, you will need to ensure that you keep your right to live in the property and to prevent the owner selling it without your knowledge. Even if you actually move out when the relationship ends, you may want to move back in again. To retain your right, you must register your ‘right of occupation’ by completing a form and sending it to either the District Land Registry or the Land Charges Department in Plymouth, or in Northern Ireland, the Land Registry or the Registry of Deeds, depending on where the title of the property is registered. This procedure is not complicated and it is not necessary to consult a solicitor. However, anyone who wants to register in this way should consult an experienced adviser, for example, a citizens advice bureau adviser.

Contact us

Housing Options
Community and Housing Department
3rd Floor
Civic Centre

Telephone: 020 8545 3636