Dividing the family home on divorce or dissolution if you’re renting

One or both of you might want to carry on renting your home after your break-up. What your options are depends on your tenancy agreement and whether you’re renting from a private or social landlord.

Securing the rights to your home

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Are you in the early stages of separating and want information about protecting your rights to live in the home? It’s worth reading our guide Your rights to your rented home during divorce or dissolution.

Getting expert advice

Usually, it’s much better if you can agree with your ex-partner (husband, wife or civil partner) what you’ll do about your home.

But be aware that there might be long-term consequences that you’re unaware of if you work things out yourselves. It’s a good idea to get advice from a housing charity.

It’s also worth talking to a family lawyer.

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Dividing the family home through mediation

What if you and your ex-partner don’t agree about what should happen – for example, if you’re both on the tenancy agreement? You could consider using a mediator – an impartial third party.

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You can find a mediator:

What the courts can decide

Most divorces or dissolutions don’t end up with a full court hearing to settle financial disputes. But it’s a good idea to understand what the courts could decide about your rented home.

Courts might be able to order that a tenancy is transferred from the tenant to their ex-partner.

If you have children, especially if they’re young, where they live will be an important consideration in reaching a financial settlement

What are your options if you’re the sole tenant?

If the tenancy is just in your name and you don’t want to stay in the property, you might be able to sign it over to your ex-partner.

But it will depend on a number of factors – including the type of tenancy you have.

If you want to stay and your ex-partner agrees to move out, you can continue living there.

But you must make sure you can afford to pay the rent on your own.

If you’re renting from a private landlord

One of you might want to continue living in the property. You could ask your landlord if the tenancy can be transferred or if they can sign you up for a new tenancy.

Otherwise, you could make an application to the court for the tenancy to be transferred.

If you’re able to come to an agreement with your landlord, it’s often best to enter into a new tenancy.

But it’s important to get legal advice before signing over or giving up a tenancy because you could be giving up valuable rights.

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Always put in writing what you’ve agreed verbally with your landlord – an email or even a text might be acceptable.

It’s important to do this – otherwise you could be accused of abandoning the tenancy and asked to pay the rent after you’ve moved out.

If you’re renting from a social landlord

You might have the right to sign over your tenancy to your ex-partner.

Your social landlord might be a:

  • a housing association
  • a housing cooperative
  •  the Housing Executive
  • a local authority.

If they won’t agree to sign over your tenancy, your ex-partner might be able to get a court order.

In Scotland

Depending on the type of tenancy you have, you might have the right to sign over your tenancy to your husband, wife or civil partner.

If you have a secure or short secure tenancy, you can pass it onto anyone who has lived with you and who has used the property as their main home for the past six months or more.

You’ll need to write to your landlord and ask their permission. But they can’t refuse unless there’s a good reason. For example, that they have already started eviction proceedings against you. If they do refuse, you might be able to get a court order.

You might be giving up very valuable rights by signing over a tenancy – so it’s important to get advice before you do anything.

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What are the options if you’re both on the rental agreement?

If you and your ex-partner are on the rental agreement, you’re both responsible for paying all the rent until the tenancy ends.

Try to agree between you what you’ll do:

  • You might agree that one of you moves out and the tenancy is signed over to the other person’s name alone.
  • You might decide that both of you will move out and that you end the tenancy agreement.

Either of you can give notice to end the tenancy – unless it’s a fixed-term tenancy. This might be a problem if your relationship breakdown is  difficult and you're on bad terms.

If you’re renting from a private landlord

One of you might want to continue living in the property. But you won’t necessarily be able to do this after your divorce or dissolution, unless the tenancy is still in force or has been transferred by a court order.

Ask your landlord if they’ll let one of you take over the tenancy.

If you want to take over the tenancy, you’ll need to show that you can afford to pay the rent on your own.

Your landlord might ask for references or a ‘guarantor’ – who promises to pay the rent if you can’t. Your landlord might charge for any changes made to the tenancy agreement, usually capped at £50.

If you’re renting from a social landlord

One of you might be able to take over a joint tenancy.

If a court orders that a tenancy has to be signed over from one person (or joint names) to another, the social landlord must abide by this.

Make sure that you can afford the rental payments on your own.

What are the options if the tenancy isn’t in your name?

If the tenancy isn’t in your name, you might be able to get the long-term right to live in the property.

But it could be hard if your ex-partner – or, especially, the landlord – doesn’t agree to this.

If you’re renting from a private landlord

Unless a court orders the tenancy to be transferred from your ex-partner’s name to yours, you don’t have an automatic right to carry on living in the property after your divorce or dissolution is finalised.

When your marriage or civil partnership ends, your right to remain in the property ends as well.

If you want to stay – ask your landlord if you can take out a tenancy in your name.

If you’re renting from a social landlord

If your ex-partner’s name is on the tenancy, you can only stay there while you’re married or civil partners.

If your tenancy allows it and your ex-partner agrees to sign over the tenancy, contact your social landlord to find out what you need to do.

If a court orders the transfer of a tenancy, a social landlord must allow this.

In  Scotland

If your ex-partner’s name is on a secure or short secure tenancy, they can pass it onto anyone who has lived with them and used the property as their main home for the past six months or more.

They need to write to the landlord and ask their permission, but they can’t generally refuse.

If the landlord refuses, and your ex-partner has a secure tenancy, they can appeal the decision in the Sheriff Court. If your ex-partner doesn’t have that type of tenancy, unless a court orders the tenancy to be transferred from their name to yours, you have no right to stay in the property after your divorce or dissolution has been finalised.

Ending your tenancy early

If you have a fixed-term tenancy with a private landlord, you probably can’t end it early. By law, you’re responsible for paying the rent until the fixed term ends.

It’s worth talking to your landlord as they might be prepared to be flexible. Otherwise, you could lose part or all your deposit.

If you’re renting a property from a social landlord, you might be able to end your tenancy early. But it’s important to get advice as you might be giving up valuable housing rights:

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impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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