Succession rights

Inheriting a tenancy when a tenant dies

When a tenant dies, their tenancy does not automatically end. Some people have the right to take over the tenancy. This right is known as ‘succession’.

The right to succeed to a tenancy normally depends on:

  • how you are related to the tenant who died
  • how long you have lived together
  • the type of tenancy they had.

Have a look below at the rules of succession for each type of tenancy. If you are not sure what type of tenancy the person had, look at our pages on renting first.



Succeeding to a council tenancy


There are strict rules about who can ‘succeed’ to a council tenancy:

  1. A council tenancy can only be passed on once by succession, unless the tenancy agreement allows for more than one succession
  2. If you are a joint council tenant, you automatically become the sole tenant if  the other joint tenant dies
  3. If you are not a joint tenant, you will only be able to succeed to the tenancy if you are:
  • the tenant’s spouse or civil partner, as long as you were living together at the time of their death (or, if the tenancy is a demoted tenancy, for at least a year beforehand), or
  • another family member (this includes cohabiting partners, children, parents, siblings and most other close relatives) as long as there is no surviving spouse or civil partner and you were living with the deceased for at least a year before their death.

If you succeed to a council tenancy, you would have the same type of tenancy as the person who died. So if they had an introductory tenancy or a demoted tenancy, it will remain introductory or demoted until the full trial/demotion period has passed.

If you succeed to a secure council tenancy, there is a chance that the council may try to evict you if the home is now larger than you need. If that does happen, the council must offer a suitable alternative home for you. Take a look at our pages on eviction of council tenants for more information.

If you are living in temporary accommodation that was provided after you made a homelessness application, you do not have succession rights. However, it may be possible to ask the council to grant a new agreement in your own name. Contact the council or a local advice centre urgently to discuss your situation.

The rules of succession for council tenancies in England are different. Go to Shelter for information relating to England.


Succeeding to a housing association tenancy


You can only succeed to a housing association tenancy if:

  • you are the spouse, registered civil partner or cohabitee of the tenant, and
  • the property is your only or main home, and
  • there has been no previous succession.

It is not normally possible for other family members (eg children) to take over a housing association by succession unless:

  • the tenancy is a secure housing association tenancy
  • they had been living in the home for at least 12 months before the tenant’s death, and
  • there is no surviving spouse or partner who is eligible to succeed.

As with council tenancies, you would normally succeed to the same type of tenancy as the person who died. So if they had an assured shorthold (starter) tenancy or a demoted housing association tenancy, it will remain a starter or demoted tenancy until the full trial/demotion period has passed. Remember to stick to the conditions of the tenancy agreement to avoid the risk of eviction.

If the person who died had an assured tenancy and you are not their spouse or partner, there is a chance that the housing association may try to evict you if they think the property is now larger than you need. The housing association normally has to provide a suitable alternative home for you. Get in touch with an adviser immediately if you receive any papers suggesting that the housing association wants to do this.

The rules of succession for housing association tenancies in England are different. Go to Shelter for information relating to England.


Succeeding to a private tenancy


Most private tenancies have very limited security. This includes assured shorthold tenancies, which is the type of tenancy most private tenants have.

Private landlords don’t always need a reason to evict their tenants – they may just have to follow the correct procedure. This means that for many private tenants, succession rights are not enforceable in reality. Negotiating with the landlord to get a new tenancy may provide more security than trying to take over the tenancy by succession.

There are exceptions. Get advice if the tenant who died had either of the following types of tenancy:

Assured tenancy

A spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner of a private assured periodic tenant can succeed to the tenancy if it was their only or main home and there had been no previous succession.

If no one is entitled to succeed, or the tenancy is for a fixed term (eg one year), the tenancy can be passed on under a will or the rules of intestacy.

Regulated tenancy

A spouse, civil partner or cohabiting partner of a regulated tenant can succeed to the tenancy if s/he lived in the property at the time of the tenant’s death.

Another member of the tenant’s family also has the right to succeed if they lived in the property with the tenant for at least two years before their death and there is no spouse, civil partner or partner who is entitled to succeed.

If the successor is the spouse or partner, and there has not been a previous succession, the tenancy remains a regulated tenancy. If it passes to another member of the tenant’s family, or is a second succession, it becomes assured. Regulated tenancies can only be passed on twice in very limited circumstances.


Succeeding to other types of tenancy


If you have a type of tenancy that is not covered in the sections above, you should get advice from a housing specialist to find out about your rights. Call Shelter Cymru’s expert housing advice helpline on 08000 495 495. You could also email our housing advice team, or, if you prefer, visit advice near you to find a local Shelter Cymru advice surgery where you can talk to someone in person.


If more than one person is entitled to succeed


If more than one person is entitled to succeed, you may need to get advice to find out where you stand. Joint succession is not normally allowed, so only one person will be able to take over the tenancy. In virtually all cases, the spouse or registered civil partner of the person who died will get priority.

Alternatively, you may be able to come to a mutual agreement about who will succeed to the tenancy. If this is not possible, the landlord will normally decide for you, or, if the tenancy is regulated, the county court must decide.


If the person who died took on the tenancy by succession


Succession can normally only happen once, unless your tenancy agreement allows for more than one succession. So if the person who has died took on the tenancy by succession it can’t normally be passed on again in the same way.

However, there are exceptions and it is always worth contacting an adviser to check the facts. The law is very complicated and what happened in the past may not actually count as a succession in the eyes of the law.


If you have no succession rights


If you don’t have an automatic right to take over the tenancy but would like to remain, your landlord may consider granting a new tenancy in your name.

If the person who died was a secure council tenant and you:

  • had been living with the tenant for the year before they died, or
  • had been living with the tenant and looking after them, or
  • had accepted responsibility for the tenant’s children

the council may consider granting you a new tenancy either at the same property or somewhere more suitable.  There is no legal requirement for them to do so but the Welsh Government expect them to consider any request. If this applies to you, contact an adviser as they might be able to negotiate with the council to increase your chances.

Similarly, if no one is entitled to succeed, it may be possible for the tenancy to be passed on through the will or by the rules of intestacy. However, in most cases, the landlord will be able to evict the person(s) who stays on by following the correct legal procedure.

It’s is important to be realistic. In a worst case scenario, you may have no choice but to find somewhere else to live. Contact an adviser if you think you will have problems finding somewhere suitable that you can afford.


Things to consider before taking over the tenancy


Although you may have the right to take over a tenancy by succession, you don’t have to if you don’t want to. You should think carefully before you decide, and get advice if you are not sure.

Important questions to consider are

  • Will you be able to afford the rent?
  • Do you want to remain in a property where a close relative died?
  • Is the landlord likely to try to evict you if you take over the tenancy?
  • What other alternatives do you have? For example, would you prefer to move closer to family and/or support networks?

If you do not stay, are you likely to need help finding somewhere else? If you approach the council for help, they may decide that you are intentionally homeless because you gave up a home that you could have stayed in. If this happens, the council may still have to take reasonable steps to help prevent you becoming homeless but are unlikely to have any duty to secure alternative accommodation for you.

In some circumstances, where your household includes children or young people, the council may also have a duty to secure accommodation even if they have decided that you are intentionally homeless.

For more advice on what help the council can provide to you, click here.


If no one is going to succeed


If no one is eligible to (or wants to) take over the tenancy by succession, it is very important that you formally end the tenancy. You should get advice first, however, to make absolutely certain that no one has succession rights. Don’t take your landlords word for it as the rules are complicated and landlords sometimes get this wrong.

The reason that you need to formally end the tenancy is because the estate of the person who died will be legally liable for paying the rent until this has been done. Surviving family members could be left with a large amount of arrears to pay if the tenancy is not ended properly. Get advice if you need help with this.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Whose name the agreement was in

Checking the name on the tenancy


If you rent your home and someone in your household dies, your right to continue living there will depend on what type of tenancy they had and whose name the agreement with the landlord was in. You may need to take action to ensure you can stay.



What should I check?


When a household member dies, you need to check:

  1. whether the agreement was:
  • a sole tenancy (in the name of only one person),
  • a joint tenancy (in the name of more than one person), or
  • a number of separate agreements (where each individual person has their own separate tenancy or license, which may have different terms and conditions)

2. whose name(s) the tenancy agreement was in

3. what type of tenancy they had.

If you are not sure what type of tenancy they had, have a look here first.


What if the person who died was the sole tenant?


Where this is the case, your rights will depend on whether you have the right of succession. The law gives certain people an automatic right to succeed to the tenancy (ie. take it over in their own name).

The rules depend on:

  • the type of tenancy the person had,
  • how you were related to them, and
  • whether you were living with them at the time of their death and, in many cases, for at least a year beforehand.

Don’t assume that having lived together for a very long time will give you the right to succeed.

Click here to find out more about who has succession rights.


What if I am the sole tenant?


If your agreement with the landlord is in your name only, the fact that someone that you allow to live with you dies does not affect your rights to stay in your home. You will have the right to stay no matter whom you are renting from or what type of tenancy you have.

If you are in this situation and your landlord tries to make changes to your agreement, get advice before you agree to anything. An adviser can check that you’re not agreeing to give up important rights.


What if it was a joint agreement?


As joint tenants, you and the person who died had exactly the same rights and were equally responsible for paying the rent and keeping to the terms of your agreement. This means that if one tenant dies, the remaining joint tenant(s) automatically take over the whole tenancy.

Bear in mind that this also means that you become responsible for paying all of the rent and other expenses, including the deceased person’s share. If you can’t afford this, get advice as soon as you can. An adviser can help you to tackle any rent arrears and may be able to help you to negotiate with the landlord – for example if you want to take on a new joint tenancy with someone else in order to make the costs more affordable again.


What if we had separate agreements?


If you have a separate tenancy from the person who has died, your rights to continue living there will not be affected. Again, don’t agree to pay anymore rent or allow any other changes to your agreement until you have checked with an adviser to make sure you’re not losing out.


What if the person who died was one of my parents?


In this situation, your rights will depend on your circumstances, including;

  • whether you lived with the parent who died for at least a year before they died
  • whether they had a surviving spouse, registered civil partner or cohabiting partner who is entitled to succeed and if so, whether that person agrees that you can stay
  • if not, whether you are entitled to succeed to the tenancy yourself.

The rules can be complicated so have a look at our page on succession and contact an adviser immediately to find out more.

Don’t move out until you’re sure of your rights. If you’re not old enough to live on your own, you need to get help as soon as possible. Call Childline free on 0800 1111 to speak to a friendly person who can help you. Or you can visit their website if you don’t feel like talking. If you can’t get through the first time, don’t give up – just keep trying.

Young people can also find lots more advice about housing here.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.


Finances after a death

What happens if the mortgage or rent aren’t paid?


Your financial situation is likely to change if someone you live with dies. You need to ensure that the rent or mortgage will be paid, even if you’re not liable for paying it. You should also find out whether you’re eligible for any benefits, or need to update any existing claims.


Falling behind on payments could result in:

  • eviction or repossession
  • your landlord or lender taking you to court to force you to pay off the arrears
  • a bad credit rating, which would make it difficult for you to find a new home.


Am I liable to pay the rent or mortgage?


If you are the sole owner or tenant you will continue to be liable for the whole of the payments.

If you and the person who has died were joint tenants or owners, you automatically become liable for the whole of the rent or mortgage.

If you are the spouse or civil partner of the owner or tenant, you will normally become liable for the rent or mortgage payments once their estate has been settled. However, you may also be liable in the meantime if you are their personal administrator. Either way, it is important to ensure that the rent or mortgage is being paid to avoid building up (or increasing) arrears. Contact an adviser or solicitor if you are unsure about anything.

If the property isn’t in your name, and you’re not the spouse or civil partner of the owner or tenant (eg. you are cohabiting) the situation is more complicated. You may not be legally responsible for paying the mortgage but will probably need to ensure it is paid in order to protect any legal interest you have in the property. You should get advice as soon as possible to find out where you stand.

Visit advice near you for your nearest advice surgery or contact a solicitor.


Can I be held responsible for their rent arrears?


If the property is rented, when you become liable for the rent, this usually includes liability for any rent arrears the deceased had built up. The only exception is if the deceased had a secure tenancy. In this situation you will not normally be liable unless you have agreed to take on the arrears.


Can I get any help?


If you have a low income, you may be able to claim income support mortgage interest (if your home is owner-occupied) or housing benefit (if the home is rented). Depending on your personal circumstances you may be able to get a crisis loan or a community care grant.

If you already have rent arrears or mortgage arrears, remember that your home might be at risk. Contact the National Debtline, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service or a local advice centre as soon as possible.


What if I am already claiming housing benefit?


If you have an existing housing benefit claim, it might be affected by your change in circumstances. You should update your claim as soon as possible, as the amount you are entitled to may change. If you don’t inform the council, you might end up being paid too much and having to pay it back later on, or you might possibly lose out on additional benefits.

If you are already receiving housing benefit but are struggling to pay the rent, you could try applying for a discretionary housing payment.


Can I get bereavement benefits?


If your husband, wife or civil partner has died in the last year, you may be entitled to special benefits. Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim:

  • bereavement payment or widowed parent’s allowance
  • bereavement allowance
  • a funeral payment.

For more information about the financial help you might be entitled to, visit the Directgov website or a local advice centre.


Can I claim mortgage or life insurance?


If your home is owner-occupied, the person who died may have taken out mortgage payment protection insurance. This type of insurance policy is designed to pay the mortgage if the insured person dies and could protect your household from the risk of eviction.

Whether you own or rent your home, the person who died may also have taken out life insurance.

You should contact the providers of any insurances that may have been taken out and get financial advice as soon as possible. You should also let your mortgage lender or landlord know what is happening to ensure that they don’t take action to evict you or repossess your home if payments are missed.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.


Checking the will

What is a will and how to check it


A will is a legal document that sets out how a person wants their property and personal belongings to be passed on when they die. If you and the deceased were joint owners of the property, their will only relates to their share of the property and personal belongings.

The will usually also names the ‘executors’, who are the people the deceased wants to be responsible for carrying out their wishes and sorting out their estate. If you were close to the person who has died, it is possible that you might be named as the executor in their will.



Can will’s be changed?


A person’s will can be changed at any time before they die. So it’s important not to make assumptions. Even if the person who has died told you what was in their will, they may have changed their minds and made a new will before their death.


How do I know if there is a will?


The person who died may not have told you that they had made a will or where it is kept. This doesn’t mean there isn’t one. Writing a will can be a very personal thing and some people don’t even tell those closest to them about it.


How can a will be found?


If you think the person who died had a solicitor, you should try to find out the name and address of the solicitor and phone them up. Solicitors keep records of the wills they have made and can easily trace whether or not they hold a will.

Similarly, the deceased may have used a bank as their executors, or may have informed their own bank of their arrangements.

If you don’t know where to start, you can ask any solicitor to put an advert in a legal magazine to find out if any other solicitor knows about the existence of a will. The solicitor you speak to will be able to tell you more about this.


What if there is no will?


If someone dies without leaving a will, or the will cannot be found, the rules of intestacy give certain relatives of the deceased the right to inherit property or personal belongings. You may be able to inherit property in this way if you are the deceased person’s spouse, registered civil partner, or close member of the family as defined in the rules of intestacy. Cohabiting partners cannot normally inherit under the rules of intestacy but may be able to apply for financial provision from the estate. You will need help from a solicitor if you are in this situation.


What if the property has not been left to me in the will?


If you are married to, or in a civil partnership with, the person who died but the house was not left to you in the will, you might be able to argue that you are entitled to a share because you have other rights under the law. You should contact a solicitor to find out more.

If you are not the spouse or civil partner of the person who has died and the house has not been left to you in the will, you may no longer have any rights to remain in your home and should get advice as soon as possible. A local advice centre can check whether you may be able to claim a proportion of the estate in other ways and can explain any other options you may have.


Where can I get more information?


See the Directgov Guide to wills and probate for more information.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.


Getting help after a death

Advice on getting help after a death in the household


Whatever your circumstance, losing someone close to you is a terrible experience to go through.

You do not have to deal with everything on your own. There are specialist agencies that can help you cope with bereavement, and others that can help you with legal, practical and financial issues.



Help with bereavement


When someone you know or care about dies, it can be difficult to come to terms with, whatever the circumstances are. If you are having difficulty in coping with the loss of someone close to you, contact a bereavement organisation such as Cruse for specialist support and counselling in confidence. You could also talk to your GP, who may be able to refer you to local counselling organisations.

BUPA have a factsheet about bereavement on their website, which you may find helpful.


Help with the funeral


If you find that you have to make the funeral arrangements, it can be daunting. A funeral director will guide you through the process of arranging the funeral and make all the necessary arrangements.

You can get advice about choosing a funeral director and search for a company near you at the National Association of Funeral Directors. They can help you apply for funeral payments from the social fund, if you’re eligible.


Help with housing issues


If you are unsure about your housing and benefit rights following a death in the household, you should get advice – visit advice near you for your nearest advice surgery.

An adviser can look into your situation and explain your rights. They may be able to help you deal with practical issues – for example if you need to make changes to your tenancy. Shelter Cymru’s specialist housing advisers can help you protect your rights or call our advice and support services on 08000 495 495.


Help from a solicitor


In many cases, particularly if your home is owner-occupied, you will also need help from a solicitor to sort out your housing situation. You may only need to see them once, but it’s best to find out where you stand early on.

You can find a solicitor in your area through Yell.com, the Law Society or visit the Gov.uk Civil Legal Advice pages for further advice.  They also have a helpline you can call for free, confidential and independent legal advice on 0845 345 4 345.

Be aware that you may have to pay solicitors’ charges. Find out whether you may be eligible for help with these costs using the Civil Legal Aid Eligibility calculator.


Bereavement benefits


If your husband, wife or civil partner has died in the last year, you may be entitled to special benefits.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be able to claim:

  • bereavement payment or widowed parent’s allowance
  • bereavement allowance
  • a funeral payment.

For more information about the financial help you might be eligible for, visit the GOV.UK website or visit advice near you for your nearest advice surgery.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.


Getting the perpetrator to leave

Advice to get the perpetrator out of the house


If you have suffered domestic abuse, you may want to stay in your home, and get the perpetrator out.



CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

If staying at home because of Coronavirus puts you or your family at risk of abuse from someone else in the household, there is still help available during the pandemic.

If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999. If you need silent help dial 999 followed by 55. Police will still come to your home.

The Live Fear Free helpline is a free, confidential 24 hour helpline run by Welsh Women’s Aid. Call 0808 8010 800 or email [email protected] Men experiencing domestic abuse can contact the Respect Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327.

For details of how to stay safe during the pandemic, click here.



Contacting the police


In some cases, the best way to get a perpetrator to leave will be to have them arrested. This may only get the person out of the way for a short time but, if they are charged, then they may be either held in custody, or may be given bail only on the condition that they do not go near you.

If a criminal offence has been committed, the person may also be prosecuted and given a custodial sentence.


Changing the locks


You may want to change the locks to stop the perpetrator getting into your home.

However, you need to be aware of two things:

  • simply changing the locks is unlikely to stop a determined attacker, except when combined with other security measures
  • if the perpetrator has rights to occupy the home (if you have a joint tenancy, for example), you could be illegally evicting her/him.

Occupation orders


Occupation orders are court orders that extend or restrict a person’s right to occupy a home. They can, for example, give you the right to stay in the family home where you didn’t previously have that right (for example, where the tenancy is a sole tenancy in the perpetrator’s name) or exclude the perpetrator from the home.

An occupation order can be applied for separately or as part of other family law proceedings (divorce or custody proceedings, for example) The details of the order you can apply for will depend on your relationship to the perpetrator and the type of accommodation you live in.

Occupation orders can have a power of arrest attached so, for example, if the perpetrator has been excluded from the home, they can be arrested if they try to gain entry. The perpetrator can be given a custodial sentence or fined for breaching the order.

You will need to seek the advice of a solicitor to get an occupation order. They cannot guarantee your safety, and will only last for a limited time, so you will need to take further action to settle who stays in the property in the long term. You will need advice from a family solicitor about this.

For further help and advice visit the FLOWS (Finding Legal Options for Women Survivors) website.  They can help you consider the legal options available, online, on the phone, or sitting down with an expert in your local area. It’s an entirely free, confidential and fully independent service.


Giving notice


If you and the perpetrator have a joint periodic tenancy (eg. one that’s not for a fixed term), you can end her/his rights to occupy by giving notice to quit to your landlord. The notice will have to be valid – there are rules on how a tenancy can be ended.

This will, however, also end your rights to occupy. Your landlord might be willing to grant you a sole tenancy when the joint tenancy ends. You should check with the landlord and get further advice before giving notice.


Help for perpetrators


If you are the perpetrator of domestic abuse or are worried about your behaviour, there is help available.

Follow the links below for further advice and support:

Respect phoneline has a team of advisors who can offer you confidential, honest advice, without any judgement, to help you stop.

Relate offer the Choose2Change programme which is a service to increase the safety of victims of domestic abuse through working with the perpetrator.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Finances and domestic violence

Domestic abuse and money


This page gives advice on financial help you can get if you leave your partner because of domestic abuse.


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

If staying at home because of Coronavirus puts you or your family at risk of abuse from someone else in the household, there is still help available during the pandemic.

Contact one of the organisations below or visit Welsh Women’s Aid advice page on Safety and Self-Care Advice for Survivors in Isolation. For details of how to stay safe during the pandemic, click here.

If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999. If you need silent help dial 999 followed by 55. Police will still come to your home.



Claiming benefits


If you leave your partner, you may be worried about how you are going to pay for your general living costs.

You could be entitled to tax credits or benefits.  For example, Universal Credit, follow the link to our page for further  information and advice.  Contact Jobcentre Plus to make a new claim for benefits.

If you are already claiming benefits, you will need to contact Jobcentre Plus and/or the council to let them know about your change of circumstances.

In an emergency, you may be able to get help from the Discretionary Assistance Fund, or apply for a budgeting loan to help you pay for essentials.

If you are unsure what you might be entitled to, get advice. The Department for Work and Pensions have produced a comprehensive Guide on the help you can get if you are a victim of domestic abuse.

If you are staying in a refuge, the staff there should be able to help you apply for help.


Housing costs


One of your biggest costs if you leave your partner is likely to be your housing costs. You may be able to get housing benefit or Universal Credit housing costs to help pay the rent or mortgage. The amount you get depends on your circumstances (your income, the people in your household, etc).

If you still have to pay rent on the home you have left, you may be able to get housing benefit on two homes for a limited period. If you are claiming Universal Credit and you have left your normal home because of a fear of violence you may be able to get housing costs paid on two homes for a maximum time of 12 months.

If the help you get to pay your housing costs doesn’t cover all your rent you may be able to get a discretionary housing payment.

If you face other housing costs (for example, if you are moving into privately rented accommodation and have to pay a deposit) you may be able to get help from the Discretionary Assistance Fund or apply for a budgeting loan. If you need help to furnish a new place, there may be a local furniture project that can help out with low-cost furniture.


Child maintenance


If you leave your partner, you can apply for child maintenance from them, to help with the costs of bringing up your children, although you may not wish to do this if it may cause you or your children further harm or distress. If you are afraid that your partner may threaten or ill treat you or your child if they are forced to pay child maintenance, it’s best to get advice before making a claim.

For information and support with applying for child maintenance from your ex-partner, and the different options for you, go to the Gov.uk : Making a child maintenance arrangement.

If you and your ex-partner are unable to reach an agreement regarding maintenance payments, or you don’t know where your ex-partner is, you will need to contact the government’s Child Maintenance Service.  The Child Maintenance Service has replaced the Child Support Agency and deals with all new applications for child maintenance payments.  You do not have to pay the Child Maintenance Service application fee if you are a victim of domestic violence and abuse.

You could also contact Citizens Advice or Welsh Women’s Aid for help and support in dealing with your relationship breakdown and how this affects your finances.


Opening a bank account


If you don’t have your own bank account, try to arrange to open one before you leave.

If you already have your own bank account(s) and credit card(s), make sure you tell the bank and credit card company your new address, so that your partner can’t get hold of your statements. Use a ‘care of’ address if you don’t want anyone to know where you’re staying. Be aware, however, that many banks won’t send information to a ‘care of’ address.


Where can I go for help?


If you believe or suspect you are being financially abused the following organisations can help you:

Money advice service offers practical advice as well as further links to advice and support specifically aimed at people who are experiencing financial abuse

Refuge is a charity who support women and children experiencing domestic abuse.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Women’s refuge

Refuges


If you have to leave home because your partner is behaving in an abusive or threatening way, you may want to stay at a refuge. Or, if you apply as homeless, the council may arrange emergency accommodation in a refuge.



CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

If staying at home because of Coronavirus puts you or your family at risk of abuse from someone else in the household, there is still help available during the pandemic.

If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999. If you need silent help dial 999 followed by 55.  Police will still come to your home.

The Live Fear Free helpline is a free, confidential 24 hour helpline run by Welsh Women’s Aid. Call 0808 8010 800 or email [email protected] Men experiencing domestic abuse can contact the Respect Men’s Advice Line on 0808 801 0327.

For details of how to stay safe during the pandemic, click here.


Who can go to a refuge?


Any one who is being abused can go to a refuge for safety. You don’t have to have children to get a place in a refuge, and you don’t need to have left your partner permanently.


Where will the refuge be?


The addresses of refuges are kept confidential to protect residents from abusive partners.  You may have to stay in another area if there are no places in your nearest refuge.


How do I get into a refuge?


There are several ways in which you may be able to get a place in a refuge:

  • telephone the freephone 24-hour Live Fear Free Helpline on 0808 8010 800 or Shelter Cymru’s helpline. An adviser will do their best to find you a place in a refuge that suits your needs, or will help you sort out somewhere else safe to stay if there are no places available
  • the police or social services may be able to refer you
  • the local council may be able to refer you, or may arrange for you to stay in a refuge as emergency accommodation if you make a homelessness application.

Be aware that you may not be able to get a place in a refuge straight away, as there can be a high demand for places, and they are limited.


What if I am disabled or have a disabled child?


If you are disabled, it may be more difficult for you to get away from your home, especially if you have mobility problems. In addition, many refuges aren’t fully accessible for disabled people. An adviser from the freephone 24-hour Live Fear Free Helpline (0808 8010 800) will be able to help you find a place in an accessible refuge, and you can also get help from the council.


How do I pay for my accommodation?


Refuges are not free; you will have to pay rent while you are staying there. However, you may be able to claim housing benefit to help cover the cost. If you still have to pay rent on the home you have fled, you may be able to get housing benefit for two homes.

For further information about what refuges are like, what help you can get in a refuge and your rights while you are staying in a refuge, click here or visit the website of Welsh Women’s Aid.




Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an adviser
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Domestic violence and homelessness

Domestic abuse and homelessness


If you have left your home or feel you need to move out because of domestic abuse but you have nowhere to go, you should get help from your local council’s homelessness department.

You do not need to be sleeping on the street to get help from the council.

Even if you have accommodation that you can legally occupy, the council should still consider you homeless if you can’t live there because of a risk of abuse.

Click here to find details of your local council and use the information below to help you.

Follow our step-by-step guide on how to make a homelessness application.


CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

If staying at home because of Coronavirus puts you or your family at risk of abuse from someone else in the household, there is still help available during the pandemic.

Contact one of the organisations on the bottom of this page or visit Welsh Women’s Aid advice page on Safety and Self-Care Advice for Survivors in Isolation. For details of how to stay safe during the pandemic, click here.

If you are in immediate danger, call the police on 999. If you need silent help dial 999 followed by 55.Police will still come to your home.



Am I classed as homeless because of the abuse?


The council should consider you homeless if:

  • you have no accommodation that you have a right to occupy, or
  • you have a right to occupy accommodation (for example, because you have a joint tenancy) but you cannot return there because it is likely that you, or anyone else you live with (e.g. one of your children) will be subjected to abuse.

Domestic abuse is abuse from another person who is, or has been:

  • your spouse or civil partner
  • your intimate partner, regardless of gender
  • a family member, including your parents, grandparents or someone who has had parental responsibility for you
  • someone who has agreed to marry you, or enter into a civil partnership with you (whether or not that has happened)
  • another member of your household (e.g. a carer, or a friend that you normally live with).

Abuse includes physical violence but also threatening or intimidating behaviour. Abuse could include:

  • psychological abuse
  • financial abuse
  • emotional abuse
  • sexual abuse

You do not need to have actually suffered violence to be considered homeless. If there have been threats of abuse that are likely to be carried out, the council should help you.

If you are in short-term accommodation (e.g. you are staying with a friend or relative) because you have left your home as a result of abuse or threats of abuse, you should also be considered as homeless.


What should the council do?


If you are homeless (or likely to become homeless in the next 56 days) and ask the council for help with housing, it should take a ‘homelessness application’ from you. Once a homelessness application has been taken the council will have certain duties to help you. Depending upon your circumstances, it may have to find you emergency accommodation or perhaps help you return or stay in your home. For more detailed information on what help the council can give, click here.

You can make a homelessness application to any council, regardless of where you have been living or the reasons you have become homeless. If the council refuse to take a homelessness application from you, get advice immediately.

Interviews
The council will want to talk to you about what has happened and how you have become homeless. They should offer you the choice of being interviewed by a person of the same sex and should speak to you sensitively. If you feel that the person interviewing you is not being sympathetic or is not taking you seriously, tell them, or ask to speak to their manager.

Evidence
The council may ask you for some evidence of the abuse or threats, for example a crime reference number. However, if you cannot supply evidence, the council should take your word that you have been a victim of abuse or threats of abuse. You may be asked to sign a statement stating what has happened.

Just because you may not have suffered actual abuse in the past this does not mean it could not happen in the future. The council should not insist that you prove abuse has already happened.

Assessment
The council will then carry out an assessment of your situation to decide what help they should give you.  The council, with your permission, may contact the police, your friends and relatives, landlord, doctor, or anyone else you have told or who may know about the abuse. However, they should not contact the person who has been violent against you or threatened you, as this could put you at risk.  If the council decides that you are eligible for help, homeless, or at risk of homelessness, then the council should provide you with support as soon as possible.The council may write a Personal Housing Plan with you.


Can the council give me emergency accommodation?


If the council has reason to believe you may be:

then the council has to provide you with emergency or interim accommodation while they decide what other help they can give you.

You will have a ‘priority need’ if you have suffered domestic abuse or would be at risk of domestic abuse if you returned home.

The emergency accommodation may not be ideal, but should be suitable for you. It may be in a hostel, refuge, or a bed and breakfast hotel. If you have children, bed and breakfast should not be considered suitable, except for a maximum of six weeks if nothing else is available.

For more information on the council’s emergency accommodation click here.


What other help can the council give?


What help you are entitled to depends on your circumstances. In most cases the council will have to provide you with advice and help at an early stage.

If you are eligible for help and in danger of losing your home in the next 56 days, the council must help you to try and keep your current home. This is known as the duty to help to prevent homelessness or “the prevention duty” and means that the council must take reasonable steps to stop you from becoming homeless. If you have accommodation that you have a right to occupy, the council may offer you options to help you remain in your home, such as personal protection arrangements, help in securing your home or finding a solicitor to help you get an injunction.  The council cannot expect you to return home if there is a risk that you will be in danger and it must take into account your wishes about where you think you should live.

Follow the links below for further information on how the council could help you if you:


What do I do with all of my belongings?


The council may need to take reasonable steps to protect your belongings (“the duty to protect belongings”) if they are at risk of damage or loss and you are not able to protect or deal with them yourself, for example because you can’t afford to arrange removals or storage.


Where can I go for help?


If you are homeless or at risk of being homeless as a result of domestic abuse the following organisations can help you:

Llamau offer advice and support for women and children experiencing homelessness

Hafan Cymru are a charitable housing association that provides housing and support to men, women, their children and young people across Wales. They primarily work with those escaping domestic abuse, helping them regain their independence.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.

Going to court

Going to court over long-term renting solutions


People go to court when they can’t agree on a solution. Going to court can be time-consuming and costly, so problems are usually best settled out of court, for example by using mediation.


This page is a guide to how the court might help you sort out problems with your rented home, but the outcome will depend on your rights and individual circumstances. If you need immediate access to the home, you may be able to get this through the courts by applying for an occupation order. You are likely to need the help of a solicitor if you go to court – see the Law Society’s website for advice on how to find one.


Is it worth it?


Taking court action can cost a lot of money and take up a lot of time and effort. Usually, only certain tenancies are worth fighting for in court: those that have strong rights associated with them.

These include:

You can check what type of tenancy by reading the pages on tenancy types. Assured shorthold tenancies from private landlords aren’t necessarily worth going to court for as you can be evicted very easily. Going to court may be more worthwhile if you have an assured shorthold tenancy from a housing association, although you can still be evicted quite easily. Before taking any court action, talk to an adviser about your options. Find an advice surgery near you by visiting advice near you.

If you can, you could try to negotiate with your partner to reach a solution. If you don’t feel like you and your partner can talk alone without disagreeing, you could try mediation. Mediation is different from counselling as it aims to reach practical agreements about finance, children and property by using a neutral third party (the ‘mediator’) to help you talk through issues. Mediation can have very positive long-term benefits as it can help build understanding between ex-partners. Some solicitors offer mediation services, or you could search on the Directory of UK mediators.


What can the court do?


What the court can do depends on whether you are married or in a civil partnership and legally ending your relationship or not, or whether you’re cohabiting. The court’s decision will also depend on whether you have children, and your personal circumstances, such as finances and whether you have any alternative accommodation.

In the short-term, courts can issue occupation orders. These have the potential to reinforce rights to the home, exclude partners from the home or area, or allow re-entry to the home if necessary. The orders normally last a short amount of time, but in some circumstances, such as if you’re married, in a civil partnership or a joint tenant, they can last longer.

In the long-term, courts can transfer tenancies from one tenant to the other, or from one tenant to a non-tenant. They can declare that one partner lives in the home for a certain amount of time, or say that one partner should pay compensation to the other if, for example, the other partner has suffered financial loss through losing a tenancy.


Court costs and procedure


Whether or not you have to pay court costs depends on your circumstances. You can read more about costs on the Court Service website.

You will not have to pay a fee if you are receiving:

  • Income Support
  • Universal Credit
  • Income-based JSA
  • Working Tax Credit, provided you are not also receiving Child Tax Credit
  • Income-related Employment Support Allowance
  • Pension Credit guarantee credit.

Or your gross income does not exceed a certain limit (which you can check at court)

If you do not qualify for an exemption from fees, you may still be eligible for part remission, depending on your level of income. You will need to attach proof of your benefit or income to your application form for exemption or remission of fees. You can find out if you’re eligible for legal aid to cover your solicitor’s costs using the legal aid calculator accessed through the Directgov website.


Will I need a solicitor?


If you are planning to divorce, separate from or split up with your partner, or dissolve your registered civil partnership, it is likely that at some point you’ll need a solicitor to help you sort out your home and money issues. You may be able to sort things out yourselves if you don’t have children, or if you haven’t been married or together for very long, but if you share a lot of assets and can’t agree how to divide them, you may need legal help.

Mediation can help in these circumstances. It provides a neutral third party to help you and your partner make decisions, and is likely to be cheaper than a solicitor.

If you decide you have to see a solicitor, you may only need to see them once, but it’s best to find out where you stand. You will need a family law solicitor, which you can find using the Yellow Pages, or through specialist organisations such as The Law Society or Resolution.

Fees
Solicitors’ charges are based on how much time they spend on your case. Remember to get an estimate before you start, but remember that fees may go up as your case progresses. If you instigated the divorce, you may also be liable for court fees. You may be able to get help paying costs if you’re eligible for legal aid – see court costs and procedure, above.



Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
08000 495 495


Email an adviser

If you have a non-urgent problem and would like to speak to an advisor
email us

We are sorry that we cannot provide this information in Welsh, however if you would like to speak to an adviser in Welsh please contact 08000 495 495.