Relationship Breakdown – Housing

Your rights and options regarding your housing can differ depending on whether you rent or own and whether your name is on a tenancy agreement or mortgage.  


There are different types of tenancy agreements that you can have and different types of contracts. For exxample, you might have a joint tenancy agreement on a fixed term contract. This means your name and your partner’s name is on the tenancy agreement and you have agreed to rent for a set period, usually 12 months. 


Joint Tenancy – This is when both people are named as tenants and means you both have the same rights.  

Sole Tenancy – This is when only one person is name on the tenancy contract. The other person might be classed as an occupant and will have less rights. 

If you are a tenant, either joint or sole, you are still liable for the rent payments. If they are not made, or not made in full, your landlord can ask for you to pay the full amount owing, not just ‘your half’  

If you are a joint tenant and you move out, you are legally entitled to move back into the property whilst you are still named a tenant on the contract.  

You can use the Shelter website to check your tenancy type if you can’t find your contract or aren’t sure it’s correct. 

You may be able to get a joint tenancy changed into a sole tenancy. The first thing to do would be to speak to your landlord about this. 


Fixed Contract

This is where you agree to rent for a set amount of time, usually 6 or 12 months. Unless your contract specifically mentions how/when you can end the contract early, known as a break clause, you are liable for the rent for that period. So, if you leave a 12-month fixed term contract 7 months into it, you may still be liable for the remaining 5 months.   

If your contract does not have a break clause, you may still be able to end the contract early with permission from your landlord. You should ensure that you get any confirmation of this in writing. 

Rolling Tenancy

If your contract does not specify a set period that you are renting for, or your fixed term has ended this is known as a rolling, or periodic, tenancy. You are now renting on a rolling basis from rent payment to rent payment, which for most people is month to month and so is a rolling monthly contract.  


There is no right or wrong thing to do when you separate, and it is sensible to discuss who will do what and when. We understand this is not always possible though. 
One of you moves out – most often, one person will move out of the property and find somewhere else to live. 
Both of you move out – both of you could leave the current property and move into separate properties. 
Both of you remain but live separately – this is an option although can have implications for benefit claims. You will need to essentially live as separately as possible including having different rooms for sleeping and clothing, making your own meals, doing your own laundry and maintaining different financial arrangements.  

Owning a property

Joint Owners / Mortgages

If both of your names are on the property deeds or mortgage, then you both own the property and both have the same legal right to live in, and return to, the property. There is no right or wrong thing to do when you separate, and it is sensible to discuss who will do what and when. We understand this is not always possible though. 
As you both own the property, it cannot be sold without both of you consenting to this. This means, neither of you can sell it from underneath the other person without their knowledge. 
It also means you should not change the locks on the property as both of you are legally entitled to live in and return to the property.  

If your name is not on the deeds/mortgage 

If you do not own the property or are not named on the mortgage, you may still have some legal right to remain in the property or to make a claim for a share of the value of the home. 

If you are married to, or in a civil partnership with, the person who owns the home and/or is named on them mortgage you can apply for Home Rights with Land Registry. This will enable you to have a legal right to remain in the property until your divorce, or civil partnerhsip dissolution, is finalised. This can only be done if your partner owns the whole property. If they are joint owners with someone else, you can’t do this.  

There are instructions on how to do this here and you can find the application form here if the property is registered with Land Registry. If it is not registered with Land Registry use this form instead. 

What are the benefits?

The benefits of registering Home Rights is that: 

You have the right to continue living in the property whilst you are still married/in a civil partnership 

If your partner tries to force you to leave the property or returning to the property you can take legal action against them.