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.
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 occupation contract, for example), you could be illegally evicting her/him.
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 occupation contract is a sole contract 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. Please see our advice here for more information about occupation orders.
You will need to seek the advice of a family law 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.
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.
Other options for joint contract-holders who are at risk of abuse
Exclusion of a joint contract-holder
If the perpetrator is a joint contract-holder, has left the home and doesn’t intend to return, you can apply to the court to make an order to remove them from the occupation contract. This is known as ‘exclusion of a joint contract-holder’. If you believe you are at risk of abuse and that the perpetrator could return at any time, then this is probably not the best option for you. You may want to consider getting an occupation order (see above) or another type of injunction instead.
Before a court application to exclude a joint contract-holder can be made, you must give the perpetrator a ‘warning notice’. This notice must be in writing and give 4 weeks before you apply to court. You must also give a copy of the notice to the landlord. During the 4 week period you should make reasonable enquiries about whether the perpetrator intends to return.
The court might decide not to make an order to remove the perpetrator from the contract if they believe the perpetrator left the home due to any antisocial behaviour on your part.
If the court makes an order to remove the perpetrator’s name from the contract, they may be able to appeal this if:
- they did not receive a ‘warning notice’
- they had a good reason for not responding to a warning notice
- they can demonstrate that you did not have reason to believe they didn’t intend to return
They must appeal within 6 months of the court making the order. If the appeal is successful the court may decide to reinstate the perpetrator as a joint contract-holder, or make another kind of order if appropriate.
Eviction of the perpetrator by the landlord due to antisocial behaviour
If the perpetrator is a joint contract-holder and is in breach of the contract due to antisocial behaviour, the landlord can evict them without ending the contract for other joint contract-holders. This is known as ‘exclusion by the landlord for prohibited conduct’. The landlord must serve notice on the perpetrator and apply to the court for a possession order. However, the court must consider whether it is ‘reasonable’ to evict the perpetrator.
However, the landlord is under no obligation to take this action, even if they are aware that you have experienced, or are at risk of, abuse. If the risk of abuse is immediate, waiting for the landlord to evict the perpetrator may not be the best option for you. You may want to consider getting an occupation order (see above) or another type of injunction instead.
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.