Renting: Your rights to your home during divorce or dissolution

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

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 are 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. You may be able to negotiate with your landlord so that one of you can continue to live there after the tenancy runs out or the marriage or civil partnership ends.

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

He or she is responsible for paying the rent. However, you have rights to continue to live in the property while the tenancy exists 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 these as what’s called a ‘non-entitled spouse’ or ‘non-entitled civil partner’. If your ex-partner moves out, you may 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’s not so clear cut and depends on the tenancy agreement. Your ex-partner may also be able to transfer or sign over the tenancy to you.

Securing your rights to stay in the home

Your rights to stay in your home may only last for as long as you are 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

Depending upon the type of tenancy agreement you have and whether your landlord is a private or social sector landlord, if the tenancy agreement is in your ex-partner’s name, and he or she moves out, you may be able to continue paying the rent (to avoid arrears and the threat of eviction). However, 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, he or she is liable to continue paying the rent. However, if, for example, he or she has moved out and is no longer paying the rent, while you are still married or in a civil partnership you may 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 and to live there with your children (even if they are grown up). Your ex-partner cannot end the tenancy without your written agreement.

Securing your rights in court

If you and your ex-partner can’t agree about who should carry on living in the family home, and if the tenancy is in his or her name, you may 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’s means-tested.

In Northern Ireland and Scotland, legal aid is still available without the need to demonstrate domestic violence has taken place, and it is means-tested.

When you have the right to take over the tenancy

You may 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 does not agree to you taking over the tenancy from your ex, you can apply to the court for what’s called a ‘tenancy transfer order’.

However, it is always worth talking to your landlord first because they may 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 are responsible for paying the rent. If it’s a joint tenancy with your ex-partner, you are each responsible for making sure the rent is paid. So if he or she 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 may try and take steps to evict you.

You may be entitled to Housing Benefit if you’re on a low income.

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

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 in place to pay the rent, including any arrears. If your landlord refuses to negotiate, or if you owe rent, contact an advice charity.

Your next step

Did you find this guide helpful?