What are your rights, when it comes to renting and separation?

A relationship breakdown is always difficult, no matter how amicable the decision has been.  A relationship involves many ties and connections and many of these can be financial.  When we share a home with a partner, especially a rented home, then things can become difficult if a couple cannot agree on whether the tenancy is terminated or one party agrees to allow the other to continue as a sole tenant and therefore agrees to leave.   Generally speaking, it is always better if an amicable arrangement can be agreed upon with your ex-partner about what you’ll do about your home/living arrangements after separation as  Housing law can be complicated. You may have rights to live in a property, transfer or end the tenancy, or possible responsibilities to pay the rent that you might not be aware of.  So it’s confusing and stressful to try and work this out by yourself.  With this in mind, it’s best to talk to an adviser from the Local Council, a Housing Rights Charity or your local Citizens Advice.

Other renting and separation factors to be considered

Of course, there will be other factors needing to be taken into consideration before any future plans regard transferring tenancies/ ending tenancies etc, but if you can agree on terms and conditions with your ex-partner and/or Landlord, then it is possible to do this quickly and with as little disruption or stress as is possible at an already upsetting time. For one person/parent to continue to live in the current home can often be the only sensible solution where children and their needs, including their all-important schooling, are concerned. Of course, it will also depend on what type of tenancy you have, and whose name is on the tenancy agreement, and indeed if an amicable agreement can indeed be reached between all parties. It is always important to know what your rights/options are in such circumstances as everyone’s situation is different. 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 usually depend on whose name is on the tenancy agreement.

Renting and Separation

The tenancies for couples renting and separating

If you can agree with your ex-partner which one of you stays in the property then it’s important not to end your existing tenancy without getting a new one from your current landlord, as if you end your tenancy you will have no right to remain there.  As you will then be paying the full rent as a sole tenant the Landlord will want to see proof that you can cover the full rent alone.  For this purpose, he may well ask for work references/ bank statements or possibly for a ‘guarantor’ (if none of these is in place already).

If the tenancy agreement is in your name, you do have the automatic and legal right to continue to reside in your home. You are also responsible for making sure the full monthly rent is paid and that the terms of the tenancy agreement are complied with.  Should your ex-partner have contributed to the rent (even though legally he had no requirement to do so) and losing this contribution may now be a financial burden, this is something that will need to be taken into consideration if you plan to stay in the property as the sole payer of the rent.  Even though you have the legal right to stay can you afford to?  Can you apply for housing benefit to help with the monthly rent, or would move to a cheaper rental area/home be the better option for you.  These are just some of the many important factors to take into consideration when deciding who lives where after a break-up.

What if it’s a joint tenancy?

If you have a joint tenancy with your partner then you both have the right to carry on living in the property.  However, either of you can give notice to the landlord to end your part of the tenancy at any time, unless your lease is a fixed-term tenancy. The exact process you will need to follow will be determined by the type of joint-tenancy agreement you have. You might be able to discuss with your landlord that one of you can take out a new tenancy if you can agree on this between yourselves and your Landlord.  Also, it is important to remember that if it’s a joint tenancy with your partner, you are each responsible for making sure the rent is paid in full and on time. So if your ex-partner can’t or won’t pay the rent, the landlord could ask you for the full amount, and vice-versa.  Ensure you always keep your Landlord/Letting Agency up to date with a situation such as a relationship break-up/ one party leaving a home/ difficulties paying your rent etc, as soon as possible, as non-payment of rent can lead to eviction and also lead to the future issue regarding securing any future rental properties if you have a previous history of failure to pay your rent.

What if the tenancy is in your partner’s name?

If the tenancy agreement is in your partner’s name, they could ask you to leave immediately.  However, you still have rights if married or in a civil partnership.    If the tenancy agreement is in your ex-partner’s name then they continue to be responsible for paying the rent, but you have the right to continue to live in the property during the tenancy.  In England/Wales 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, it will depend on the tenancy agreement.  One would hope each party would allow the other to secure an alternative place to stay, at least in the short term, before enforcing any need to leave.  However, if a break-up is far from amicable then this isn’t always the case and some people find themselves in dire need of accommodation as an emergency situation.  Sometimes with children.  Should you find yourself in this situation there are services and charities that can assist you. As well as Emergency out-of-hours services the Citizens Advice and Local Councils will be able to help you as will the housing charity, Shelter.

If your partner wants you to leave your home and the tenancy is in their name there is still a way you could secure the right to stay in your own home. Especially if children are involved.  How you start this process depends on where in the UK you live.  In England/Wales you have to apply to a court for an ‘occupation order’. (In Scottish Courts they issue an order for ‘occupancy rights’). These are legal orders which decide who has the right to stay, and who has to leave, the family home where there are dispute/family issues. This is always considered a last resort and the Courts don’t issue these orders without good reason, as these orders can often result in the person legally entitled to stay in the property, having to leave. So the Courts will only usually make this order for a property where you have both recently lived prior to separating and was lived in by all as the family home. These orders are for short term use, although in special circumstances can be extended by the courts. The most usual reason for these orders to be issued is when there has been domestic abuse or similar.  These occupation orders can also be issue alongside other restraining court orders in situations where abuse or harassment is a factor in the breakup and there is an ongoing need to secure an individuals and/or families safety.

How straightforward is renting when separating?

More often than not in straightforward separation cases (where there is no domestic abuse or other domestic issues involved) Local Councils and Social Housing Associations will offer mediation services to try and resolve any outstanding issues regards rental properties, and who lives where after a separation.  This non-intrusive method of reaching an amicable conclusion for all parties works very well and is increasingly becoming very popular.  Mediation may not be for everyone, but it is a service that can bring quick and acceptable results for all involved, and usually when provided to the tenant by a Landlord/Housing Association or a Charity, can often be free of charge.

Useful info

Get professional advice if renting during separation

Again, always remember it is VERY important to always seek professional advice with regards to house moves/mortgages/renting etc.  A reputable Letting Agent could not be more valuable in these situations as they have the knowledge and expertise to ensure your journey is a safe, happy and successful one.  Moving can be stressful at the best of times,  however, if you’re moving after a breakup and with all the stress that that entails, then the knowledge of these specialists will be invaluable for you and your families peace of mind that all is being taken care of.

So if you’re looking for a fast house move for whatever reason, just contact the experienced professionals at allAgents and we can get that house move on the go! Please remember that having all the necessary and correct information from a trustworthy and reliable source ensures well-informed decision making at every stage.

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Just search through the many resources on our site, we’re certain you will find useful information from various agencies that will be happy to assist you every step of the way through renting your property and all that that entails, thus ensuring a smooth transition and a successful outcome.

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