Your rights to your rented home during divorce or dissolution

If you rent your home with your husband, wife or civil partner, you’ll have to work out if one of you will carry on living there or if you can end the tenancy. Find out what your options are.

Understanding how you rent your home

You have the right to stay in the property while you’re still married or civil partners.

But you also have responsibilities, depending on whose name is on the tenancy.

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.

If you are a joint tenant with your ex-partner

You and your husband, wife of civil partner both have the right to carry on living in the property.

However, either of you can give notice to the landlord to end the tenancy (unless it’s fixed-term).

The exact rules depend on the type of joint-tenancy agreement you have.

Does one of you want to continue living there after the tenancy runs out or the marriage or civil partnership ends? Then you might be able to negotiate this with your landlord.

If the tenancy agreement is in your ex-partner’s name

They’re responsible for paying the rent. But you have rights to continue to live in the property during the tenancy, and while you’re still married or in a civil partnership.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, these are called ‘home rights’.

In Scotland, you have similar rights to a ‘non-entitled spouse’ or ‘non-entitled civil partner’.

If your ex-partner moves out, you might be able to take over paying the rent. In England and Wales this is something you have the right to do. But in Scotland and Northern Ireland, it will depend on the tenancy agreement.

Your ex-partner might also be able to transfer or sign the tenancy over to you.

Securing your rights to stay in the home

Your rights to stay in your home might only last for as long as you’re married or in a civil partnership, depending on whose name is on the tenancy agreement.

Your rights vary slightly depending on where in the UK you live.

England and Wales

If the tenancy agreement is in your ex-partner’s name, and they move out, you might be able to continue paying the rent (to avoid arrears and the threat of eviction). But it would depend on the type of tenancy agreement you have, and whether your landlord is a private or social sector landlord.

Once your marriage or civil partnership is over, your right to stay in the property ends.

Northern Ireland

If the tenancy agreement is in your ex-partner’s name, they’re liable to continue paying the rent.

What if they’ve moved out and are no longer paying the rent – while you’re still married or in a civil partnership? Then you might have the right to live in the property and pay rent.

Talk to your landlord about getting your name onto the tenancy agreement as it will give you more protection.

Scotland

If the tenancy agreement is in your ex-partner’s name, you have the right to live in the home as if you were the tenant with your children (even if they’re adults).

Your ex-partner can’t end the tenancy without your written agreement.

Securing your rights in court

What if you and your ex-partner can’t agree about who should carry on living in the family home? If the tenancy is in their name, you might be able to go to court to secure the right to stay in the property.

If the court agrees, this will give you the right to stay in the property for a specific length of time. Or it can help you enforce rights you already have to stay there.

In England and Wales

Legal aid is available if you’re applying to the court because of domestic violence – although it is means-tested.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland

Legal aid is still available without the need to prove that there has been domestic violence – although it is means-tested.

When you have the right to take over the tenancy

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

  • In England or Wales, it will depend on the type of tenancy you have and what’s in the agreement.
  • In Northern Ireland, you have more rights to do this if you rent from the Housing Executive or a housing association than if you rent privately.
  • In Scotland, if your landlord doesn’t agree to you taking over the tenancy from your ex-partner, you can apply to the court for what’s called a ‘tenancy transfer order’.

But it’s always worth talking to your landlord first because they might be happy to let you take over the tenancy in your name alone.

Making sure the rent is paid

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

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

So if they 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 be entitled to Housing Benefit if you’re on a low income.

  • If you’re in England, Scotland or Wales, find out more about Housing Benefit on the GOV.UK website
  • If you’re in Northern Ireland, find out about Housing Benefit on the Housing Executive website

Sorting out problems with your landlord

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

If your landlord refuses to negotiate, or if you owe rent, contact an advice charity.

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Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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