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My relationship has broken down – what are my rights

A more detailed version of the advice contained on this webpage is available for download.

A relationship breakdown can be a stressful time, especially when it affects your accommodation. You should consult your solicitor or a legal centre to get advice before you make the decision to move out of your property. However if you are fleeing an abusive relationship, then it is vital you prioritise the safety of yourself and your children.

Your housing rights are dependent on whether you are a home owner or a tenant, if you are cohabiting or married and if you have any dependent children.


If you own your home

  • If you are a sole or joint owner you have an absolute right to live in the property and the right to exclude others from the property.
  • If you are married and your spouse or civil partner is the sole owner, you still have the right of occupation of the matrimonial home and you have a beneficial interest if you have contributed financially to the home. You will need to seek legal advice to find out what your rights are.
  • If you are not married or in a civil partnership, and living with your partner who is the sole owner, your rights may be limited. However, you may have a beneficial financial interest in the property if your relationship has been long term and you have made contributions towards mortgage or any household expenses. Consult your solicitor if you fall under this category.
  • If your spouse is the sole owner and is wanting to sell the property, you can request Land Registry to put a note on the land register which will notify any potential buyers whilst the notice is in place. The owner will be informed when the notice is made.
  • Court orders can be obtained if faced with difficult circumstances and you cannot reach an agreement to either remove one of the joint owners from the property or specify who can remain in the property.  
  • No joint owners can change the locks or make the joint owner leave.
  • Joint owners cannot raise a mortgage or loan against the house without a signature or consent of the other owner/owners.


If you rent your home

  • If you are a sole tenant, you have the right to live in the property (unless there is a court order in place which overrides that right).
  • If you and your partner are both joint tenants, you both have equal right to live in the property.
  • If you are married and your spouse is the sole tenant, then you still have a right to live in the property through matrimonial rights.
  • If you are not married and the tenancy is in your partner's name, you only have limited rights to remain.
  • If you are not married but have been in a long term relationship and have dependent children together, the court judgement may allow the tenancy to be transferred to the main carer of the children. Seek legal advice from a Family Law solicitor.
  • Joint tenants cannot force each other to leave the property. If you want to remove a joint tenant from the premises and prevent them from returning, you must do this through the legal process of obtaining a court order.


Domestic Abuse 

  • If you are fleeing domestic abuse, it is not necessary for you to leave your home or give up your tenancy
  • If you are in immediate danger, you should prioritise you safety and your children's safety.
  • This may require you to leave your property, but this can be on a temporary basis whilst you have the perpetrator removed from the property by applying for an injunction. You can then move back in once it is considered safe to do so.
  • You have the right to take legal action against the abuse regardless of whether you are a tenant or an owner.

For further detailed information, visit our I am fleeing domestic abuse advice page.