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 kinds of occupation contracts are worth fighting for in court: those that have strong rights associated with them.

These include:

You can check what type of occupation contract by taking a look at our Renting advice section. Standard contracts 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 standard contract from a community landlord, although you can still be evicted quite easily. Before taking any court action, get help from Shelter Cymru. An adviser can help you consider your options.

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 contract-holder, they can last longer.

In the long-term, courts can transfer occupation contracts from one contract-holder to the other, or from one contract-holder to a non-contract-holder. 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 their home.

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 Law Society’s find a solicitor tool or Resolution.

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

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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 08000 495 495.

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This page was last updated on: June 2, 2023

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.