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Joint private tenancies and relationship breakdown

You have a joint tenancy if you're both named as tenants on the agreement. Find out how to check who is a tenant.

Joint tenants have the same:

  • rights to live in or return to the home

  • responsibilities to pay rent, even if they move out

This can mean that you have to share a home for a while after breaking up. It can take time to work out what happens in the longer term.

Even if you're not a tenant, you could have rights to stay if you're married or civil partners.

If you've experienced domestic abuse

You should not have to share a home.

Get free legal advice from a family law specialist.

Find out about emergency housing and refuge spaces.

Talk to your ex about the tenancy if you can

Your options include:

  • the joint tenancy continues but one of you moves out

  • you ask your landlord for a tenancy in just one person's name

  • you or your ex end the joint tenancy for both of you

You need to talk to your landlord even if you and your ex agree what you want to happen.

Family mediation

Some people use family mediation to sort things out when they split up.

It can help you agree things like who lives in the family home and where your children stay.

Many separating couples come to an agreement without going to court.

It's not relationship counselling. The mediator will not try to get you back together.

Family mediation is free if you have a low income and can get legal aid.

It's much cheaper than going to court if you cannot get legal aid.

Find out more from the Family Mediation Council.

What happens if one joint tenant moves out

The joint tenancy continues if no one takes any steps to end it.

Your landlord cannot just take someone's name off the agreement.

You're both still responsible for the rent and any arrears.

But the landlord is likely to ask the person who still lives there for the whole rent.

If you stay and your ex moves out

There is a risk that your ex could:

  • end the tenancy while you are still living there

  • want to move back in at a later date

  • stop paying rent

If you have a periodic or rolling contract, your ex could end the tenancy without your agreement. If this happens, the landlord could evict you by changing the locks when you're out.

If you leave but are still a joint tenant

Your ex could build up rent arrears that you are still legally responsible for.

Your landlord could:

  • go to court to get you to pay the money back

  • evict your ex

Video: What happens when one joint tenant leaves and stops paying rent?

Video transcript

You and your ex are joint tenants if you’re both named on the tenancy agreement.

The tenancy stays joint even if your ex moves out.

They cannot just take their name off the tenancy.

But the landlord can ask you to pay the whole rent.

Explain to your landlord what has happened.

Get benefits advice.

You might get benefits to help with rent, even if you’re working or if you could not get them when you and your ex were living together.

Most working age people can get universal credit.

Tell universal credit that your ex has left and you need help with the whole rent.

You can report this in your online account if you already get benefits.

You can also apply for a discretionary housing payment if your benefits do not cover the whole rent amount.

You have to apply at your local council for this.

Our adviser explains what could happen and what your options are if a joint tenant leaves and stops paying rent. [Video length: 0:48]

Benefits to help with rent

Report the change to universal credit if you claim as a couple and:

  • your ex moves out

  • you separate but continue to live in the same home for a time

Report the change to the council if you get housing benefit.

If you do not get benefits at the moment, check if you could get:

  • universal credit - if you're working age

  • housing benefit - if you're pension age

Your benefits should be worked out based on your full rent if your ex is not paying the rent.

Asking for a tenancy in just your name

Your landlord might give you a new tenancy. But they do not have to.

If your ex agrees that you should stay while they move out, you could contact your landlord together. This could speed up the process.

Income and credit checks

If you will be paying the rent on your own, your landlord might:

  • ask for a guarantor

  • want to do affordability checks

Remind them that they already know you as a tenant and that you've always been reliable. Some landlords are understanding if a relationship breaks down.

Find out more about income and credit checks.

Read any new tenancy agreement before you sign it

Compare the new tenancy agreement to your old agreement.

Check that it gives you the same or similar rights.

Find out what to look for in your tenancy agreement.

Ending a joint fixed term tenancy

You can only end a fixed term tenancy early if you:

  • use a break clause in your agreement

  • ask your landlord to release you from the contract

You can only do these things with your ex's agreement during a fixed term.

Your landlord cannot just remove a name from the joint tenancy agreement.

Ending a rolling or periodic tenancy

It's easier to end a rolling or periodic tenancy. You do not need your ex's agreement.

But think about and discuss this step with you ex if you can.

The tenancy will end for both of you. Your landlord could evict anyone still living there by changing the locks when they're out.

Find out how to end a periodic tenancy.

Getting your tenancy deposit back

You may not get your money back straight away if you've moved out. It depends on whether the joint tenancy ends for everyone.

When a joint tenancy ends, the deposit is usually paid to the person listed as the 'lead tenant' with the deposit scheme.

You can ask the landlord or your ex to give you your share. They do not have to agree to do this even if you move out.

Last updated: 26 April 2024

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