Your rights to staying in the home
Whether you decide to stay in the home will depend partly on what rights you have to it. Your rights differ according to whether you are a joint or sole tenant/owner, and your relationship status.
Home rights for non-owning or non-tenant spouse or civil partner
If one spouse or civil partner is the sole owner or sole tenant of the matrimonial home, the other spouse or civil partner has home rights. ‘Home rights’ is a legal term that generally means that the non-owning or non-tenant partner can live in the home as if they were the owner or tenant.
Home rights for non-owning or non-tenant cohabitee (unmarried/not in a civil partnership)
If you are living with someone but are not the sole or joint tenant or owner, you will need to apply for an occupation order if you want to get home rights, which would allow you to stay in the home. Home rights will only last as long as the occupation order does. If you want to establish long-term rights to the home, you will have to go to court to prove beneficial interest.
What are the benefits of having home rights?
Home rights give you the right to:
- pay the rent or mortgage, and
- live in the home as though you were the tenant or owner.
Home rights usually end if one partner dies, or on divorce or dissolution of a registered civil partnership. A court can extend home rights in either circumstance – if you are in this situation, get advice from Citizens Advice, or a family law solicitor.
Home rights and tenancies
If your spouse/civil partner is the tenant, and their tenancy is:
- secure (council landlord)
- assured or regulated (housing association or private landlord)
when they leave, the tenancy will continue unless they give a valid notice to quit to the landlord.
If you have home rights, the following options are available:
- if your partner wants to end the tenancy, there may be action you can take to stop them
- if your landlord is seeking possession of your home, you could apply to postpone court proceedings (while you gather information to respond to the landlord’s action).
If your partner’s tenancy is an assured shorthold, the landlord can evict you by serving two months’ notice, and does not need to have a reason for doing so. See the page on eviction of assured shorthold tenants. It’s sensible to keep this in mind when deciding whether to apply for home rights.
Home rights and ownership
If you’ve registered your home rights, the mortgage lender would have to advise you of any court action your partner might intend to take. In some cases, you can take part in legal proceedings to defend possession of your home by the mortgage lender.
Registering home rights
If you are a spouse or civil partner (but are not the joint or sole owner), you may want to consider registering your home rights. Once your home rights have been registered you will be able to:
- prevent the owner from selling the home
- prevent the owner from getting loans against the home, and
- receive information if the home is being repossessed.
If you register your home rights, your spouse or civil partner will be told, and can challenge your application. You can register your home rights using the Land Registry website.