Long-term renting solutions if your are married or in a civil partnership

If you are married or in a civil partnership and are trying to sort out the long-term rights you have to your rented home, there is a range of solutions open to you, even if you’re not a tenant yourself.

If you rent from a council or housing association, your options will depend on whose name is on the tenancy agreement, and on whether you are divorcing or dissolving your civil partnership or not.

I am the sole tenant

If you are the sole tenant then you have the right to stay in the home. However, your spouse or civil partner could try to establish rights to the property as well. In most cases, if you leave the home, your tenancy will end.

If you and your partner decide that the non-tenant should stay in the home, then in some cases tenancies can be assigned. This means the tenancy is transferred into their name. If you want to consider this, speak to your landlord. If they do not agree, seek advice. If you want to end the tenancy, you can give notice to your landlord. This notice is often called a ‘notice to quit’, and has to be made correctly to be valid.

The courts sometimes have the power to transfer a tenancy from the sole tenant to the non-tenant. In some cases, the court will order compensation to be paid to the partner who leaves the home if they consider that person has lost out financially because of the transfer. Tenancies can only be transferred to the non-tenant through the court

if:

  • you and your partner divorce or dissolve your civil partnership, or
  • for the good of any children you might have.

You will need advice from a family law solicitor about making an application to court for a transfer of tenancy.

I am a joint tenant

If you are a joint tenant then you have the right to stay in your home. The other joint tenant has the same rights as you to stay in the home. If one joint tenant gives the correct notice to quit to your landlord, the tenancy will end for both of you, so if you think you want to stay in the property it is best to prevent this from happening. If you think there is a risk of your partner serving a Notice to Quit without your consent, you should take urgent advice from a family law solicitor about obtaining a court order preventing your partner from ending the joint tenancy and transferring it into your sole name.

If you and your partner can agree who should stay in the home, then one tenant may be able to assign the tenancy to the other. Most tenancies can only be assigned if it says so in your tenancy agreement – check this, or get advice.

Visit advice near you for your nearest advice surgery.

I am a joint tenant living in a council or housing association home

If you are a joint tenant living in a council or housing association home, and either you or your partner gives notice to end the tenancy by giving four weeks’ notice, then the council or housing association will look into whether the property will be too big or too small for whoever wants to stay. The tenancy may then be re-offered to the person staying, if the accommodation is suitable for them. If the council believes the property is too big for the person staying, they may be made to leave. If you believe your partner may end the joint tenancy by serving a Notice to Quit, without your consent, and the council will not grant you a new tenancy, get advice from a family law solicitor about applying for a court order to prevent your partner ending the tenancy, and transferring it to your sole name.

I am divorcing/dissolving my civil partnership

If you are married or in a civil partnership, a decision on the long-term rights you have to your home can be made as part of divorce/dissolution proceedings. You should get advice from a family law solicitor about your options.

I am not divorcing/dissolving my civil partnership

If you’re not planning to divorce or dissolve your civil partnership, you will have fewer legal remedies open to you. This is because the courts have more power under matrimonial and family law (eg if you’re divorcing or dissolving your partnership) than they do under housing law. If you can agree who stays in the property, it could be assigned , or transferred into the name of the person who is staying in the property. Most tenancies can only be assigned if it says so in your tenancy agreement – check this, or get advice.

Visit advice near you for your nearest advice surgery.

If you or your partner want to leave the property and bring to an end your obligations as a tenant, one of you can serve a valid Notice to Quit to the landlord. This will end the tenancy for both joint tenants. If no Notice to Quit is served and one partner leaves, then the tenancy will continue for both joint tenants. Both of you remain jointly liable for the rent, so, unless the partner who has left contributes, the remaining tenant will have to continue paying all the rent, otherwise they could risk being evicted.

If you want to stay in the home without your partner, there are few long-term options for excluding your partner if you don’t want to go through the courts. In the short-term, you can use an occupation order (although these still need to be obtained through a court), but if you and your partner cannot agree, and you want to stay in the home long term, seek advice from a family law solicitor, as you will probably have to go through the courts.

I am neither the sole nor the joint tenant

If you are not a tenant yourself (check to see whether your name is on the tenancy agreement), but you are married or in a registered civil partnership with the person who is the tenant, you could still have rights to the home.

If you and your partner can agree, and your tenancy agreement says you can, your partner may be able to assign the tenancy to you.

If your partner serves a valid Notice to Quit to the landlord, or even if you think they will do so, then get advice immediately.

Visit advice near you to find your local Shelter Cymru advice centre. Once a valid notice has been served, it is very difficult to obtain any rights to the home.

If you and your partner can’t agree who should live in the home, then a court can decide. The transfer of a tenancy has to happen at the same time as divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. It is crucial not to formally end your relationship if you are planning to transfer your tenancy, as this would end your rights to the home.

Privately renting

If you rent privately, your options will depend on what type of tenancy you have. Read the pages on tenancy type if you’re not sure. Most private tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy. Your landlord can evict you very easily from this type of tenancy, and it’s often not worth the time and money trying to hold on to a tenancy that you could be easily evicted from. However, you can ask the landlord to set up a new tenancy in your sole name – they are more likely to do this if you have a history of paying rent on time.

Very few private tenants will have a tenancy type with much stronger rights – for example, an assured tenancy or a regulated or protected tenancy. You are more likely to have one of these tenancies if you have lived in your property for a long time. Get advice if you think you have one of these tenancies and you need to sort out who stays in the home.

If you have children

Whether you are planning to divorce/dissolve your civil partnership or not, a tenancy can be transferred from one spouse or civil partner to the other if the court decides it’s for the good of children. Whether the tenancy will be transferred depends on the rules of that tenancy (eg whether it can be assigned) and whether the landlord agrees to the transfer. The court will not consider details that relate specifically to the parents of the child, eg how long they have been in a relationship.

You will need to speak to an adviser to transfer a tenancy in this way – visit advice near you for your nearest advice surgery. The adviser is likely to tell you that you will also need the help of a family law solicitor.

What if my partner is the sole tenant and they leave, without ending the tenancy?

If you are married or in a civil partnership and your partner is the sole tenant, and they leave without giving notice, you are likely to be able to continue to live in the home for as long as your marriage or civil partnership lasts. You will need to pay the whole of the rent or you could risk being evicted. If you divorce or dissolve your civil partnership, then, with nearly all tenancies, your rights to live in the property will end.

Get advice if you are in this situation.

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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: June 3, 2017

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.