When a relationship comes to an end, the first major issue most couples need to tackle is their living arrangements. Dealing with property law can be a complicated process, and it’s always best to seek the advice of an experienced family lawyer before you start making decisions. Your housing rights will depend on your marital status, any dependants, and whether you own or rent your home.
If you own your home outright or have a mortgage and both your names are on the title deeds:
- You and your ex-partner both have a right to stay in the home if you are both legal owners;
- You may also return to the home, even if you have previously agreed to leave;
- These rules apply whether you’re married, cohabiting or in a civil partnership, so long as you are both named on the title deeds.
If your home is mortgaged or owned outright by your ex-partner but your name is not on the title deeds
- You have automatic home rights to remain in the home if you are married or in a civil partnership;
- You do not have automatic home rights to remain in the home if you are cohabiting, and your partner is legally entitled to ask you to leave so long as they give you a reasonable period of notice and you are not claiming financial interest in the property;
- You can claim financial interest in your home even if you are not married and your name is not on the title deeds, for example by providing evidence that you have contributed to deposits, mortgage payments, bills, or stayed at home to look after children;
- You should immediately register your home rights with the Land Registry to protect your interest in the property and prevent your partner from selling it.
If you rent your home and have a joint tenancy with your ex-partner:
- You both have a right to stay in the home whether you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting;
- You will be liable for the full rent amount if your ex-partner leaves, even if you are joint tenants;
- You may be able to transfer tenancy to one name if either of you decide to leave, so long as you are able to pay the full rent and any arrears;
- The court has the power to allocate tenancy to either tenant depending on circumstances – if you have children, the main caregiver is more likely to retain home rights;
- You may be entitled to housing benefits to help cover the cost of rent following separation. Find out if you are eligible here.
If you rent your home but your name is not on the tenancy agreement:
- You have automatic home rights to stay in the home if you are married or in a civil partnership;
- The tenancy can be transferred into your name through a court divorce or dissolution of civil partnership;
- You do not have automatic rights to stay in the home if you are cohabiting unless a court order is made;
- However tenancy could be transferred into your name if you have dependent children who would benefit from staying with you in the property.
In all cases, your first port of call should be your family lawyer, who will be able to provide advice tailored to your personal situation. From a legal point of view, when you decide to separate it’s usually best not to move out of your home so long as you and any children are safe from harm. Always seek advice before you move out of a property as it may affect your legal claim later on. You will also need to work out whether you can afford to cover the full costs of staying in your home if it is your intention for your ex-partner to move out. Your solicitor will be able to help you find out if you are eligible for support or benefits such as housing benefit or child maintenance, and offer the best advice on how to proceed with separation.
For more information on separation, divorce and housing rights, get in touch with the family law team at Frances Lindsay & Co.
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