Renting: protect your rights to your home during separation if you were cohabiting

If you rent your home with your ex-partner, and you’re not married or in a civil partnership, one or both of you might have the right to carry on living in your home – at least in the short term – if you split up. It’ll depend on what type of tenancy you have and whose name is on the tenancy agreement. It’s important to find out what your options are.

Understanding how you rent your home

You might rent your home in your name alone, in your partner’s name, or in both of your names.

Whether you have the automatic right to remain there will depend on whose name is on the tenancy agreement.

  • If the tenancy agreement is in your name, you have the right to remain in your home. You’re also responsible for making sure the rent is paid and that the terms of the tenancy agreement are complied with.
  • If you’re a joint tenant with your partner, you both have the right to carry on living in the property. But either of you can give notice to the landlord to end the tenancy (unless it’s a fixed-term tenancy). The exact rules depend on the type of joint-tenancy agreement you have. You might be able to negotiate with the landlord so that one of you can take out a new tenancy.
  • If the tenancy agreement is in your partner’s name, they could ask you to leave and you might not have much time to find somewhere else to live. If you’re in this situation, talk to an advice charity or get legal advice.
arrow icon

Securing your rights to stay in your home

If your partner wants you to leave and the rental agreement is in their name, you might be able to secure the right to stay there.

How you do this depends on where in the UK you live.

England and Wales

You’ll have to apply to a court for an ‘occupation order’ if you want to stay. This is a court order which sets out who has the right to stay, return or be excluded from the family home.

It’s considered a last resort because it can exclude someone from a property that they legally have the right to live in.

An occupation order can only be made for a property where you both live, did live, or intended to live in as the family home.

They usually last for a specific length of time (usually six months) – although they can be renewed.

But courts don’t routinely issue these, so you might not be successful.

The court will look at all the circumstances of your case. They’ll also consider the likelihood of significant harm to you, your ex-partner and any children if an order is made. This will be balanced against the likelihood of significant harm if an order isn’t made.

You can also apply for a ‘non-molestation order’ alongside an occupation order if you want to make sure your ex-partner doesn’t come near your home. For example, if they’ve been aggressive or have a history of domestic violence against you.

Cost

The legal costs for getting an occupation order could be between £1,000 and £5,000, and possibly more. This is because most successful applications involve two court hearings.

It’s important to get specialist legal advice. There’s no court fee for applying for an occupation order. Legal aid might still be available for occupation orders where domestic abuse is involved, subject to means testing.

arrow icon

Northern Ireland

You’ll have to apply to a court if you want to stay.

The court would only say that you could stay in the property if you could show that your ex-partner has somewhere else they can live in the short term.

You’re more likely to be successful if you rent from the Housing Executive or a housing association.

Cost

It’s likely to cost about £500. Legal aid is available, but it is means tested.

arrow icon

Scotland

If your ex-partner wants you to leave and the tenancy agreement is in their name, you’ll have to apply to the Sheriff Court to get ‘occupancy rights’.

These will usually last for a specific time period (up to six months) – although you can renew them for up to six months at a time.

You can go to court if you want to make sure your ex-partner doesn’t come near your home – for example, if they’ve been aggressive or have a history of domestic violence against you.

When you have occupancy rights, you (and your children) can live in the home for as long as these rights last.

This applies even if your children are grown up. Your partner shouldn’t end the tenancy without your permission.

Cost

You might be able to get legal aid to pay the costs of this, but it is means tested.

arrow icon

When you have the right to transfer the tenancy

Your landlord might let you sign over the tenancy from your name to your partner’s, if it’s currently only in your name.

It will depend on the type of tenancy you have.

Making sure the rent is paid

If your name is on the rental agreement, you’re responsible for paying the rent.

And if it’s a joint tenancy with your partner, you’re each responsible for making sure the rent is paid.

So if your ex-partner can’t or won’t pay the rent, the landlord could ask you for the full amount.

Whatever your situation, make sure you prioritise your rental payments. If you can’t pay your rent, your landlord might try to evict you.

You might qualify for Housing Benefit if you’re on a low income.

If you’re in England, Scotland or Wales, find out more about Housing Benefit on GOV.UK.

If you’re in Northern Ireland, find out about Housing Benefit on Housing Executive advice and guidance.

If you think you’ll struggle to pay your rent, let your landlord know as soon as you can.

arrow icon
arrow icon

Sorting out problems with your landlord

It’s a good idea to talk to your landlord as soon as you can—and to show that you have a plan in place to pay the rent, including any arrears.

If your landlord refuses to negotiate, or if you owe rent, it’s worth contacting a debt advice charity:

arrow icon

Your next step

Was this information useful?
Thank you for your feedback.
We’re always trying to improve our website and services, and your feedback helps us understand how we’re doing.
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

Continue to website
Talk to us live for…
Talk to us live for…
Talk to us live for pensions guidance using…
Talk to us live for money guidance using…
Hours
  • Mon – Fri:9.00am – 5.00pm
  • Sat, Sun and bank holidays:Closed

* Calls are free. We’re committed to providing you with a quality service, so calls may be recorded or monitored for training purposes and to help us develop our services.

Talk to us live for money guidance using the telephone
Hours
  • Mon – Fri:8.00am – 6.00pm
  • Sat, Sun and bank holidays:Closed

* Calls are free. We’re committed to providing you with a quality service, so calls may be recorded or monitored for training purposes and to help us develop our services.

Talk to us live for pensions guidance using web chat
Hours
  • Mon – Fri:9.00am – 6.00pm
  • Sat, Sun and bank holidays:Closed
Talk to us live for money guidance using webchat
Hours
  • Mon – Fri:8.00am – 6.00pm
  • Sat:8.00am – 3.00pm
  • Sun and bank holidays:Closed
Talk to us for pensions guidance using our web form

We aim to respond within 5 working days

Talk to us for money guidance using our web form

We aim to respond within 2 working days

Talk to us live for money guidance using WhatsApp

Download app: WhatsApp

For help sorting out your debts or credit questions. For everything else please contact us via Webchat or telephone.