Advice if you’re living with family

This section looks at housing issues that can arise if you live with another person who is a member of your family. It includes advice for people who live with their parents, and information on your rights if you live with your partner.

If you live with a person who is not a member of your family and need advice, go to sharing and subletting.

Living with your parents

As you grow up, it’s only natural that you won’t always see eye to eye with your parents or guardians. However, if you’re having problems living at home, moving out is not the only option. This page looks at ways you can improve your relationship with your parents – with a bit of give and take on both sides. It also looks at issues surrounding step-families and what to do if you feel that you’re in danger at home.

Set some ground rules
You may feel that in your family, your parents or guardians make the rules and you have only two choices: obey the rules, or break them. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. As you grow up, it’s important that you and your parents begin to set ground rules together, and to make mutually acceptable decisions about issues such as privacy and personal space, when and how often you go out and how much you help around the house.

Try to negotiate rather than argue, and be prepared to compromise. For example, you could agree that your parents won’t go into your bedroom provided you keep it tidy and put your dirty laundry in the wash. Or you may decide that you won’t go out during the week, but can stay out as late as you like at the weekend.

If they’re particularly adamant about certain points, ask them why, rather than arguing about it, and listen to their reasoning. Chances are, they have your best interests at heart and just want you to be safe and happy. If they’re worried about you, you may be able to set their minds at rest.

Tip: Give way on the little things and you might win on the big things. Not that bothered about cutting back on hours in front of the telly but desperate to stay over at your boyfriend or girlfriend’s? Give in on the telly.

Follow our top tips
It’s a bit of a cliché, but if you want to be treated like an adult, it’s important to act like one. Here are some tips for gaining your parents’ respect and trust:

  • Do your bit around the house: look after younger brothers or sisters, do the washing or cook the family a meal.
  • If you want your parents to stay out of your bedroom, keep it tidy. Don’t give them an excuse to go poking around.
  • Don’t exclude your parents from your life – try spending some quality time with them every so often. If they realise you’re not avoiding them, they’re more likely to trust you and, in turn, give you some space.
  • Try not to lie – if you get caught out (and chances are you will) it’ll only make things worse and destroy your parents’ trust in you.
  • On the other hand, what they don’t know can’t hurt them, and there’s no point bringing up something you know will upset them.
  • Don’t argue over every little thing you disagree with. That way, when it comes to the big stuff, you’ll have more force.

Talk it through
If you have a problem with the way your parents are treating you, for example, if they’re nagging or lecturing you or refusing to compromise on house rules, talk to them about it. They may not even realise they’re upsetting you.

Don’t get angry and shout or swear – your parents will just switch off. If you are angry, wait until you’ve calmed down, then discuss things rationally later on. Pick a good moment, when your parents aren’t busy and can pay attention to what you’re saying.

Put forward your side of the story, then ask them to explain theirs. Listen to what they have to say, and try to acknowledge their point of view, even if you don’t agree with it. If you end up arguing, don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong and say you’re sorry.

Tip: Remember, your parents were young once too. Things may have been different in their day, but the chances are they’ll understand what you’re going through.

Talk to someone else
If you’re having problems communicating with your parents, it may help to talk to someone else such as an older brother or sister, your grandparents, aunt or uncle, or a friend or teacher. They may be able to act as a go between, to help smooth things over with your parents. You could also call a helpline such as Childline on 0800 1111, and talk to an adviser in confidence.

Get help from a mediation service
If you feel you need some ‘hands on’ help sorting things out with your family, you could contact a mediator. A mediator is a sort of neutral referee who can help you and your parents sort out your problems. They don’t take sides, they don’t decide ‘who is right’ and they don’t tell you what to do. Instead, they help you work things out for yourselves.

Coping with a step-family
The introduction of a step-parent into the family can be the cause of terrible arguments, and can lead to young people running away from home or moving out before they’re ready to cope on their own. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Learning to live with a new parent, and possibly also new sisters and brothers, can take a lot of adjustment, but if you work at it, it can be very rewarding.

Your new step-parent may have different ideas about how the people in their household should conduct their lives, and they may expect you to keep to their rules. Accepting this can be difficult, especially if you feel that your step-parent has no right to tell you what to do. You may resent them for taking the place of the parent who has left, and you may still feel upset, insecure, angry or rejected because your birth parents have split up.

If one of your parents has died and a step-parent comes on the scene, it can be especially hard to accept that new person into your family. You might feel resentful if it appears that your step-parent is trying to fill the shoes of your mum or dad.

Although it’s hard, try to remember that your stepparent probably isn’t trying to replace your mum or dad at all. They probably want to support you but don’t know how. It can’t be easy for them either, especially if you are still grieving.

Whatever your situation is, there’s no magic solution, but talking things through and agreeing on ground rules together can really help. Negotiate calmly, be prepared to compromise, and don’t force your ‘real’ parent into taking sides with you against your step-parent, as this will only cause more trouble.

Coping with the death of a parent
When someone in your close family dies, you can feel isolated and as if no one is listening to you, but rather than getting upset or running away, try telling the people who are still around how you feel. Talk to your mum, dad or step-parent. If you feel you can’t do that and there is no-one else to talk to, you can contact Cruse, who will be able to give you help and support or just chat to you about your bereavement. Cruse have a helpline (0808 808 1677) and a website aimed at young people aged 12-18.

If your mum or dad has died, you might feel that your house isn’t your home anymore. If you feel that you are going to be pushed out of your home, remember that you might have some rights to stay in the house. Don’t make any hasty decisions, and contact Shelter Cymru’s Advice and Support Services on 0345 075 5005 for advice on your rights.

What if I’m in danger?
If someone in your home is being violent or abusive towards you, you must get help immediately. If you are in immediate danger, call 999 and ask for the police.

You can also call:

If you feel you have no choice but to leave your home right now because you are in immediate danger, have a look at our section on leaving in a hurry for a vital checklist on what to take with you, plus some other important information.

Can my parents kick me out?
Once you are 16, if your parents ask you to leave, you will probably have to go. If you’re under 16, your parents have a legal responsibility to look after you and make sure you have somewhere safe to stay. However, if you have a bad falling out, they may make you leave anyway.

If you find yourself in this situation, you should talk to an adviser immediately.

Read our advice for young people, visit an advice centre near you, or call Shelter Cymru’s expert housing advice helpline on 0345 075 5005 for advice on where to stay.

Living with your partner

Moving in with a partner, spouse, or civil partner is a big step.  At this stage, you won’t want to think about what will happen if things go wrong and you split up, but it’s important to know your rights and be prepared.

It’s not just a question of adapting to another person’s lifestyle and fighting over the TV remote control; living together as a couple can affect your finances and your right to stay in your home.

Things to think about before moving in together

Download our checklist of things to think about before taking the plunge. Read it with your partner.

Things you will need to think about may vary depending on your age and other personal circumstances. For example, if you are a young person moving in with a partner for the first time, you may need to think about setting ground rules to avoid arguments over bills, hogging the bathroom and whose turn it is to do the washing up. If you are a home owner, you’ll need to decide what kind of financial contribution your partner will make to the running of the home. If you have children, you will need to make sure that your rights to stay in the home are as secure as possible.

Will your partner be able to throw you out of your home? Will you be able to ask them to leave? Will you be financially dependent on your partner to pay the rent, mortgage or bills? What would happen if they stopped paying their share? If you are not married or in a civil partnership, you could find yourself with very limited rights.

Cohabitation contracts
If you want to formalise your living arrangements, you and your partner can draw up a cohabitation contract setting out the rights and responsibilities you both have.

This could include details of, for example:

  • how you will divide up and pay the rent or mortgage and household bills
  • childcare arrangements
  • what rights you each have to stay in the home if you split up
  • what rights you will have to any shared belongings (for example, furniture or a car) if you split up.

Drawing up a contract will make you think through the issues you’ll be facing as a couple and could help you avoid future arguments over bills and other domestic responsibilities. In addition, it will provide proof of your original intentions when you moved in together, which could help you resolve your situation amicably should you split up.

The contract will not be legally binding unless it is drawn up by a solicitor. Even then, you won’t be able to enforce it in court if it contains unfair terms or is not in the best interests of any children you may have.

Financial issues
You will also need to discuss with your partner how you will divide up the financial responsibilities of renting or owning a home.

These will include:

  • rent or mortgage
  • council tax
  • domestic bills (for example, gas, electricity, telephone, TV licence)
  • day-to-day living expenses (for example, food and cleaning products).

You may wish to open a joint account to set aside money for the rent or mortgage, and other regular bills.

Benefits
If either of you are claiming benefits, the amount of benefit you receive will be affected if you move in together, as your partner’s income will be taken into account when calculating the benefits.

You are legally required to report changes like this to the relevant benefits agencies (for example, the council’s Housing Benefit department or the Jobcentre Plus) as soon as possible if you move in with your partner, or your partner moves in with you. They will then check how this affects your benefits. You should do this as soon as possible, as you may have to pay money back if you are overpaid benefits or you may be prosecuted for fraud.

What options are there?
There are various options for living together:

  • getting a new place together – either renting accommodation or buying a home
  • moving into your partner’s home
  • asking your partner to move into your home.

Whatever you decide to do, you should consider what rights you will have in the accommodation. This depends on your circumstances – see below for more information.

Living with your partner in rented accommodation
If you live in rented accommodation together, your rights will depend on:

  • the type of tenancy you have
  • whose name the tenancy is in
  • whether you are married/civil partners or not.

Joint tenants
If you have a joint tenancy with your partner, you both have the same rights and responsibilities. You are both equally responsible for paying the rent and keeping to the terms of the tenancy agreement. If one of you can’t pay your share, the other will be responsible for paying the whole of the rent. This will be the case whether you are married/civil partners or not.

Sole tenant
Either you or your partner are likely to be a sole tenant if you have moved in with them, or if they have moved in with you.

Most tenancy agreements give you the right to live in the property together with your partner. However, it is best to check the tenancy agreement and speak to the landlord if you are planning to move in together. You may also want to ask the landlord to grant a joint tenancy, which will give both partners equal rights.

If you are not married, then the person whose name is not on the tenancy agreement will be an excluded occupier, and will have very few rights.

If you are married, your rights will be stronger (you will, for example, have the right to stay in the property until the court says you should leave, pay rent and get repairs done).

Separate tenants
If you live together as a couple, you are unlikely to have separate tenancies. If you do, you will only be responsible for paying your share of the rent.

Rights if you or your partner own your home

If you and your partner live in accommodation that one of you owns, your rights will depend upon:

  • who owns the home
  • whether you are married/civil partners or not.

Joint owners
If you are joint owners, you will be both be responsible for paying the mortgage.  If one of you cannot pay your share, the other will be responsible for paying the whole mortgage. This is the case even if one of you is not living at the property. You will both be responsible for any other payments towards the home, such as council tax, utility bills, and repairs or improvements.

In addition, one partner cannot:

  • force the other partner to leave without a court order
  • rent out or sell the home without the other partner’s agreement or a court order
  • take out a loan against the property without the other partner’s agreement
  • alter the terms of the mortgage without the other partner’s permission.

Sole owner
If one of you owns your home, only the owner will be responsible for paying the mortgage, unless you have a joint mortgage.

If you are married or in a civil partnership, the non-owner has a right to occupy the home, unless a court has ordered that they must be excluded.

The non-owner also has a right to make payments towards the mortgage, for example, if the owner moves out or stops paying. However, the non-owner cannot be held responsible for missed payments unless the court has ordered that they make payments.

Neither of you can:

  • force the other to leave without a court order
  • rent out or sell the property without getting the other’s agreement or a court order
  • take out a loan against the property without the other’s agreement.

If you are not married or in a civil partnership, the non-owner can choose to make contributions towards the mortgage or the running of the home. However, this does not mean that the non-owner will be entitled to a financial share of the home, unless you have a legal agreement that says that they will.

In addition, the owner may be able to:

  • evict the other person without getting a court order
  • rent or sell out the home without the other’s agreement
  • take out a loan against the property without the other’s consent.

Where can I get more information?
See the relationship breakdown section for more information about your housing rights if you’re splitting up with your partner. Advice Now’s Living Together website gives more information about your rights if you live with your partner, and has a Living Together Agreement that you can download.

You can speak with a specialist adviser via email, call 0345 075 5005 or visit an advice centre near you.

Phone an adviser

If you have a housing problem, call our expert housing advice helpline
0345 075 5005

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 0345 075 5005.

This page was last updated on: May 1, 2018

Shelter Cymru acknowledges the support of Shelter in allowing us to adapt their content. The information contained on this site is updated and maintained by Shelter Cymru and only gives general guidance on the law in Wales. It should not be regarded or relied upon as a complete or authoritative statement of the law.