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Who Gets the Home if You Break Up

Living with a partner, through marriage or not, means having to decide what to do about a shared dwelling when there is a separation.

Information in this help guide explains what happens to your home if you separate and how the process differs if you are renting a property.

What Happens to Your Home after Divorce?

So, you decided to end a relationship? Well, you can get professional help if you are having difficulties sorting things out.

Often, you can avoid having to go to court to find a solution by using the services of a specialist – also called a mediator.

In some urgent cases, a court will grant an ‘occupation order’ to determine what happens to your home when you separate.

Note: Another section explains more about staying in your partner’s property during a separation (e.g. if an ex-partner is trying to make you leave).

If You’re Married (or in a civil partnership)

You and your partner will both have entitlement to ‘home rights’ if you are living as a married couple or in a civil partnership.

But, what happens if your ex-partner has asked you to move out? If so, having ‘home rights‘ means you do not need to be the owner or be named on the tenancy agreement to stay in the home.

Moving out on a permanent basis would only be necessary if the marriage will end (e.g. by getting a divorce) or if there is a dissolution of a civil partnership.

Not being married, or not living in a civil partnership, would mean you don’t get home rights. In this case, being a homeowner or a tenant would determine your rights for staying in the property.

If You are Renting a Property

There are several different types of tenancy agreements used by landlords. Thus, the actual agreement that you have as tenants will determine what happens to the home if you separate.

Even so, you may not be classed as a tenant if you are a lodger, living with your landlord, or (either):

  • Living in a hostel (including certain kinds of supported housing).
  • Staying at a temporary home that the local council authority provided for you because they classed you as being homeless.

Note: You can contact the Citizens Advice helpline (Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm) if you are feeling anxious and don’t know what to do next.

Is Your Partner Making You Feel Threatened?

You can get help from several organisations if your partner is making you feel anxious, worried about your personal safety, or threatening you.

  • Refuge or Women’s Aid: 0808 2000 247 (24/7).
  • Men’s Advice Line: 0808 801 0327 (Monday to Friday: 9am to 5pm).

Important: Always try to speak with someone about your options after breaking up (e.g. a mediator) before trying to agree what to do about the home with your ex-partner.

Rules for Being ‘Intentionally Homeless’

In some cases, your local council will be able to help you find your next home if you have already moved out or ended the tenancy.

But, if they think not having anywhere to live is your fault (e.g. you became ‘intentionally homeless’) they may be unable to find a long-term home for you.

Note: It is always best to get expert help (e.g. from Citizens Advice or a solicitor) before ending a tenancy or moving out of a matrimonial home.

Surrendering a Tenancy Agreement

Who gets the house after a separation in the United Kingdom. In most cases, it is best to end the tenancy if both of you want to leave the property, by (either):

  • ‘Giving notice’ and then leaving on the day that the tenancy ends (if it is close to finishing).
  • ‘Surrendering your tenancy’ by asking the landlord to end it early (e.g. if it will not end soon).

Note: Another section explains how to end a tenancy agreement if you are renting from a private landlord and they agree to the early termination.

What if Only One Person Wants to Move Out?

You need to determine what kind of tenancy you have, and who’s name is on it, if only one of the partners wants to leave. You can use the ‘Tenancy Rights Checker‘ if you are unsure.

The agreement that you have with your landlord should be either a ‘fixed term contract’ (running for a set period of time), or a ‘rolling contract’ (with no set period or end date).

Being ‘joint tenants’ (both named as tenants) means each of the partners will have the same rights. But, you will have different rights if one is named as an ‘occupant’.

This part is important:

What happens if your ex-partner decides to move out? If so, they would be able to move back in to the home at any point – providing their name remains on the contract as a tenant.

But, moving out means you would still have some responsibility for paying rent (e.g. as a named tenant). Often, couples will make other arrangements for covering any remaining rental payments after they break up.

It is also important to update the tenancy if any of the partners leave the home on a permanent basis. But, the process for updating a tenancy agreement will depend on which type you have, the names on it, and the general discretion of your landlord.

If You Own the Property

If you own the home, and you decide to end the relationship with your partner, you have the right to stay in the property, if you (any):

  • Are married
  • Living in a civil partnership.
  • Have your name on the ‘title deeds’ (a document proving who owns the property).
If Both Names are on the Title Deeds

What if both of you are named on the legal deed? If so, both partners would own the home together. Moreover, both of you would need to decide what happens to your home – according to the housing rules in the United Kingdom.

Note: Another section explains more about joint property ownership and how it might affect your share of the dwelling.

Selling Your Home When You Separate

In most cases, the process of selling your home is easier when you both want to move out. Furthermore, it gives both partners an opportunity to share the equity (any profits made after the sale).

It is not uncommon for one partner to buy the ex-partner’s share (if they want to stay). Or, you might decide to sell your share to your ex-partner if you choose to move out.

If You Can’t Reach an Agreement about the Home

Mediation is a method that uses an ‘impartial’ third party to help couples reach an agreement after they decide to break up.

Even so, the courts can also intervene when married couples divorce or civil partners end the relationship. Thus, they can make decisions about dividing up money and belongings when you separate.

You can still ask the court to decide what happens to your home even if you are not married. As a rule, the court would divide the value of the property according to the shares owned.

What if You Have Children?

In some cases, a court can delay the sale of a home until the youngest child reaches the age of eighteen (18). It can be a complex process so you should seek legal help before considering this option.

Not Named on the Title deeds

Registering your ‘home rights’ (if you are married or in a civil partnership) is good policy during the breakup of a relationship because you would know if:

  • The mortgage lender tries to repossess your home.
  • Your ex-partner attempts to sell the property without telling you.

As a rule, you would need to have some proof of a ‘beneficial interest’ to secure your right to the home if you are not married or living in a civil partnership.

Usually, having a ‘beneficial interest’ would mean you made some sort of financial contribution to the upkeep of the property (e.g. helped to pay the mortgage).

Important: You would need to show a court judge how you contributed towards the general upkeep. Contact your nearest Citizens Advice office for more information about this somewhat complicated procedure.

Who Gets the House after a Separation in the United Kingdom