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What happens to your home when you separate

This advice applies to England

If you live with your partner, you’ll need to decide what to do about your home when you separate. Your options depend on if you're unmarried, married or in a civil partnership, and if you rent or own your home.

If you’ve already tried to sort things out with your ex-partner and are finding it difficult, you can get help reaching an agreement. A specialist called a ‘mediator’ can help you and your ex-partner find a solution without going to court.

If your partner makes you feel anxious or threatened, you should get help.

Don’t try to agree what to do about your home without speaking to someone first. 

You can call Refuge or Women's Aid on 0808 2000 247 at any time. 

Men's Advice Line is a charity that helps men suffering domestic abuse. You can call their helpline on 0808 801 0327 between 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

 If you’re unsure about what to do next, contact your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you urgently need your ex-partner to move out, you can ask the court to decide who stays in the home - this is called an ‘occupation order’. You can find out how to apply for an occupation order.

If you need help from your local council to find your next home

If you choose to end your tenancy or move out of your home, your local council might think it’s your fault you don’t have anywhere to live. This is called being ‘intentionally homeless’. If your local council think you’re intentionally homeless, they might not be able to find you a long-term home. 

Before you end your tenancy or move out, you should get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you're married or in a civil partnership

You both have ‘home rights’ - this means you can stay in your home, even if you don’t own it or you’re not named on the tenancy. You’ll have to move out permanently if your marriage or civil partnership ends, or if a court orders you to - for example, as part of your divorce.

If you rent

What happens to your home will depend on the type of agreement you have and if you’re a tenant. You might not be a tenant if you’re:

  • a lodger

  • living with your landlord

  • living in a hostel

  • living in supported housing

  • living in a temporary home provided by your local council because you were homeless

If you’re not a tenant, or you’re not sure what type of agreement you have, you can get help from your local Citizens Advice.

If you're a tenant

If you both want to leave, you should try to end your tenancy if you can. 

If your tenancy has nearly ended, you can tell your landlord you’re leaving by the date it ends - this is called ‘giving notice’. If your tenancy won’t end soon, you could ask your landlord to end it early - this is called ‘surrendering your tenancy’.

If you rent from a private landlord, find out how to end your tenancy.

If you rent from a housing association or council, get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If only one of you wants to move out, you’ll first need to check which type of tenancy you have. You can check what tenancy you have with Shelter's tenancy checker.

If your tenancy is for a set period of time, you have a ‘fixed term contract’.

If your tenancy doesn’t have a set period or end date, you’ll probably have a ‘rolling contract’.

You’ll also need to look at your tenancy agreement to see who’s named on it.

If you’re both named as tenants, you’ll be ‘joint tenants’ and have the same rights. If one of you is named as an ‘occupant’, you won’t have the same rights.

If your ex-partner moves out, they can move back in at any point while they’re still named as a tenant on the contract. If you move out, you’ll still be expected to pay rent if you’re still named on the tenancy. When you separate, you might be able to make other arrangements for paying it.

If you’re married or in a civil partnership, find out if you can get financial support from your ex-partner.

You should try and make sure your tenancy agreement is updated if either of you leave. How and when you can do this depends on the type of tenancy you have, who else is named on the tenancy and your landlord’s discretion.

If you have a fixed-term tenancy

If you’re joint tenants you’ll need to decide who moves out. If you both agree, ask your landlord if they’re happy to rent to the person who plans to stay. Your landlord doesn’t have to agree to this - if they do, get this in writing.

You’ll both be expected to pay rent while you’re both named on the tenancy.

You can apply to court to change your ex-partner’s tenancy to your name, or remove their name from a joint tenancy. You can apply for a ‘transfer of tenancy’ if:

  • your landlord refuses to change your tenancy
  • your tenancy doesn't allow a transfer
  • your ex-partner doesn't agree to a transfer

You need to go to court to transfer a tenancy, so it’s best to try to come to an agreement with your ex-partner first if you can. If you’re getting divorced, you can usually include a transfer of tenancy in your divorce proceedings.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice if you want to apply for a transfer of tenancy - an adviser can explain the process and help you find a solicitor.

If only one person is named on the contract

Ask your landlord to change the name on the contract if the named person wants to leave - this is called 'assignment'.

You can apply for a transfer of tenancy if your landlord refuses to change your contract or your tenancy doesn't allow it. You'll need to go to court.

It's usually not worth going to court to transfer your tenancy if you have an assured shorthold tenancy - unless your landlord is a housing association.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice for help assigning your tenancy, or if you aren’t sure whether it’s allowed.

If you have a rolling tenancy

If you’re joint tenants and you both want to leave, either you or your ex-partner can end the tenancy by giving notice. You’ll both need to move out.

If you've agreed one of you plans to stay, it’s usually best to explain this to your landlord and ask them to update the tenancy agreement. Your landlord doesn't have to agree to this.

If your landlord doesn't update the tenancy agreement, you’ll both still be responsible for rent and the person who leaves can still give notice to end the tenancy. If you plan to apply for social housing, your application might also be rejected if you’re still named on another tenancy agreement.

Your landlord might want to end the joint tenancy and start a new one with the person who stays. If you’re not sure this is the best option, you can get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you’re staying, think about whether your landlord is likely to rent to you before you speak to them - for example if you’ve had rent arrears in the past.

You can apply to court to change your ex-partner's tenancy to your name, or remove their name from a joint tenancy. You can apply for a ‘transfer of tenancy’ if:

  • your landlord refuses to change your tenancy
  • your tenancy doesn't allow a transfer
  • your ex-partner doesn't agree to a transfer

It's usually not worth going to court to transfer your tenancy if you have an assured shorthold tenancy - unless your landlord is a housing association.

Contact your nearest Citizens Advice before going any further if you’re worried your landlord might refuse to start a new tenancy with one of you. When you speak to an adviser, take a copy of your tenancy agreement if you can.

If your ex-partner wants to end the tenancy

You can try to stop this from happening if you want to stay. You’ll need to apply to court for an injunction before your ex-partner gives notice - this can be complicated, so it’s best to get help from your nearest Citizens Advice.

If you own your home

You have the right to stay in the home if you're married, in a civil partnership or on the 'title deeds' - the document that proves who owns your home.

If you're both named on the title deeds

If you're both on the title deeds, it means you both own your home. You'll both need to decide what happens to your home.

You might both own the whole property together - known as 'joint tenancy'. You might own the property in joint names but you each own a specific share of its value - known as ‘tenancy in common’.  If you’re tenants in common your shares might be equal - for example, half each - or unequal. You can find out what kind of joint ownership you have on GOV.UK.

If you can't agree what happens to your home

You can go to mediation to help you reach an agreement. You can find out more about mediation.

If you’re married or in a civil partnership, the court can decide what happens to your home in your divorce. You can find out more about your options.

If you’re not married or in a civil partnership, you can ask the court to decide what happens to your home. The court will usually divide your home’s value between you according to the shares you own. If you have children, you might be able to ask the court to delay selling your home until your youngest child is 18. You’ll need legal help to do this - you can find a solicitor on the Resolution website.

If you want to sell your home

If you both want to leave, you can sell the home and split any profits (the 'equity') - you can get help selling your home.

You might be able to buy your ex-partner’s share if you want to stay, or sell them yours if you want to leave. You'll need a mortgage.

You can speak to your mortgage lender - or you can try to get a better deal with another lender. You can do this by speaking to banks or building societies yourself or through a mortgage broker. Some mortgage brokers will charge you a fee.

Your mortgage lender will usually want to check that the person who wants to stay can afford the whole mortgage by themselves. They’ll usually ask to see evidence like payslips and bank statements.

You’ll need to get in touch with a solicitor to transfer ownership on the land registry. Make sure you're able to get a mortgage by yourself first - otherwise you could waste money on a solicitor.

If you’re both named on the mortgage, you’re both responsible for the payments - including any arrears - even if one of you moves out. When you separate, you might be able to make other arrangements for paying it.

If you’re married or in a civil partnership, find out if you can get financial support from your ex-partner

If you’ve moved out and you’re not married or in a civil partnership, your ex-partner could pay your share of the mortgage - this is called ‘occupation rent’.

If you’re thinking of buying or selling a share of your home, you should get help from your nearest Citizens Advice. An adviser can explain the process and help you work out what’s best for you.

If you aren’t named on the title deeds

If you’re married or in a civil partnership, it’s a good idea to register your ‘home rights’ online. This means you’ll be told if your ex-partner tries to sell the house or the mortgage lender tries to repossess it.

If you’re married or in a civil partnership, it’s usually best to sort out what happens to your home in the divorce or dissolution order.

If you’re not married or in a civil partnership, or you haven’t sorted out what happens to your home, you might still be able to prove your right to the home if you can prove you have a 'beneficial interest'. This usually means you've contributed to the home financially.

In court, you’ll need to show a judge how you’ve contributed towards paying for the home - this can be difficult, so contact your nearest Citizens Advice before you start. An adviser can help you through the process.

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