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 an occupation contract-holder yourself.

If you rent from a community landlord, your options will depend on whose name is on the occupation contract, and on whether you are divorcing or dissolving your civil partnership or not.

I am the sole contract-holder

If you are the sole contract-holder 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 occupation contract will end.

If you and your partner decide that the person who is not the contract-holder should stay in the home, then in some cases the contract can be assigned. This means the contract is transferred into their name. If you want to consider this, speak to your landlord. If they do not agree, get help. It may be possible for a court to use family law to transfer the occupation contract (see below).

If you want to end the contract, you can give notice to your landlord. The notice must be valid, To find out how to give notice correctly, see our advice about ending an occupation contract.

The courts sometimes have the power to transfer an occupation contract from the sole contract-holder to the non-contract-holder. 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. Occupationcontracts can only be transferred to the non-contract-holder 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 occupation contract.

I am a joint contract-holder

If you are a joint contract-holder then you have the right to stay in your home. The other joint contract-holder has the same rights as you to stay in the home.

If you and your partner can agree who should stay in the home, then one contract-holder may be able to assign the contract to the other. Most occupation contracts can only be assigned if it says so in your written contract – check this, or get help.

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 transferred into the name of the person who is staying in the property.  The right to transfer the contract to a spouse or civil partner is a fundamental term of all secure contracts . If you have a standard contract, check the terms of the contract to see if it can be transferred. If your contract says that it can be transferred with the landlord’s consent, the landlord can only refuse if there is a good reason.

If your contract doesn’t give you the right to transfer, the landlord might be willing to accept a ‘surrender’ of the existing contract and offer a new contract to the person staying. If the landlord agrees to this, make sure that you get this agreement in writing before agreeing to a surrender. Get help if you are unsure.

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 contract-holder

If you are not a contract-holder yourself (check to see whether your name is on the occupation contract), but you are married or in a registered civil partnership with the person who is the contract-holder, you could still have rights to the home. Find out more here.

If you and your partner can agree, your partner may be able to transfer the contract to you (see above).

If you and your partner can’t agree who should live in the home, then a court can decide. The transfer of an occupation contract 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 occupation contract, as this would end your rights to the home.

Privately renting

If you rent from a private landlord, you might not have the right to transfer the contract to your partner. Most private contract-holders have a standard contract. Your landlord does not usually need a reason to evict you from this type of contract, so it might not be worth the time and money to go to court. However, you can ask the landlord to set up a new contract in your sole name – they are more likely to do this if you have a history of paying rent on time.

Very few private renters will have a tenancy type with much stronger rights – for example, a standard contract that converted from an assured (non-shorthhold) tenancy, or a regulated tenancy. You are more likely to have one of these agreements if you have lived in your property for a long time. Get help if you think you have one of these types of renting agreements.

If you have children

Whether you are planning to divorce/dissolve your civil partnership or not, an occupation contract 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 contract will be transferred depends on the rules of that type of contract (eg whether it can be transferred) 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 the help of a family law solicitor to transfer an occupation contract in this way. You can find a solicitor here.

What if my partner is the sole contract-holder and they leave, without ending the contract?

If you are married or in a civil partnership and your partner is the sole contract-holder, 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. This is because you have home rights under family law. 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 help 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 08000 495 495.

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This page was last updated on: June 1, 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.