We want to separate, what will happen to our home?

Deciding who lives where when you separate is one of the trickiest aspects of negotiation. There are many variables but, in the eyes of the law, the outcome usually depends on your relationship status and who is named as owner or tenant of the property. Other considerations include whether you have children under 18 and/or any dependents (such as elderly parents) living with you.

Below we describe some common scenarios and your rights in each situation.

If you jointly own (or are buying) your home

If you jointly own or have a mortgage on your home you will both have a legal right to remain in the property, even if you’re unmarried or not in a civil partnership. This also means that if your partner moves out, they still have a right to return unless a court order prevents them from doing so. There are two types of joint ownership; ‘joint tenancy’ and ‘tenancy in common’ as stated on your title deeds:

  • Joint tenancy is where you both own the whole home together
  • Tenancy in common is where you each own a share of the property, which may be equal or unequal

If your relationship has broken down, you may wish to change your tenancy from ‘joint tenancy’ to ‘tenancy in common’ otherwise your share of the property may go to your ex-partner if you die before you agree on what to do with your home or have had the opportunity to alter your Will. We can give you more information on that and discuss your options.

If you’re both named in the title deeds and your partner wants to sell your home, but you wish to remain, you may be able to buy their share of the property. Conversely, if you want to move out and they wish to stay, they may be able to buy you out. If the remaining partner needs to take a mortgage out, they will have to prove they can afford the repayments alone. Once a mortgage is arranged, a solicitor will transfer ownership on the land registry.

If your ex-partner owns the home and you aren’t on the title deeds or registered as owner

Unmarried partners

Partners living together but not married or in a civil partnership have very few rights, including the automatic ‘home rights’ that others in a legally recognised relationship enjoy.

If your ex-partner owns the home, and you’re not named on the title deeds or registered as an owner, you may be able to apply to the court to allow you to stay. The court may grant you the right to remain if you have a child or children under 18 or you can prove that you have contributed to your home financially and that your ex-partner considers the property to be yours too.

Married couples or civil partners

If you’re not on the title deeds or registered as the property owner, but you’re married or in a civil partnership, you can register with the Land Registry to stop your partner from selling your home or to ensure you’re informed if a mortgage company wants to repossess your home.

If you’re both renting your home

Tenancy agreements can vary greatly but, generally speaking, if you have a joint tenancy agreement you both have a right to stay even if you aren’t married or in a civil partnership. If one of you wants to remain in the rented property, you will need to ask your landlord to transfer the tenancy to the sole occupier. We advise to do this as soon as possible as there is a risk that one partner giving notice on a jointly rented house may end the tenancy for both of you. We also advise getting all communications and agreements with your landlord in writing, and that any changes to the occupation of the property ends one agreement and begins a new one to ensure there can be no confusion over who is responsible for paying rent and bills.

The tenancy is only in your ex-partner’s name and you want to stay in the home

Unmarried partners

Your ex-partner may ask the landlord to transfer the tenancy to you if the relationship is amicable, or you may be able to apply to the court. Permission to stay may be granted if you are the primary carer for children and/or dependents who live with you.

Married couples or civil partners

If you’re married or in a civil partnership, you have the same ‘home rights’ as those who own homes. If you wish to remain in the property and a court determines that is the best solution, they can order that the tenancy is transferred to you as part of a divorce or civil partnership dissolution.

What to do if you can’t agree on what to do with your home

If you and your ex-partner can’t decide who will live where, a mediator can help you by encouraging positive and productive conversations until you reach a conclusion. If you cannot find a solution and your situation calls for the court to get involved, a judge will typically divide the value of your home between you. They will consider the needs of any dependents when deciding who should live where.

Are you experiencing domestic abuse?

If you need to move out or want your partner to leave due to domestic abuse, please look out for next month’s blog, ‘My living arrangements need to change due to domestic abuse. What do I do?’ which will be on our website at the beginning of August.


We can support you with any matters relating to relationship breakdown and housing. Please contact us on 0116 340 0094 or hello@agrlaw.co.uk to arrange a virtual or in-person appointment with a member of our experienced team.