Relationship breakdown: joint tenancies

Find out what your options are if your relationship breaks down when you’re in a joint tenancy.

Check what type of tenancy agreement you have

You’ll have a joint tenancy if both you and your partner are named as tenants on the agreement.

If you leave your home and don't end your tenancy legally, you'll still be liable for rent.

Also check whether you have a periodic tenancy or a fixed term tenancy. A periodic tenancy is ended differently to a fixed term tenancy.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse in your home you have options to find safe housing. Get homelessness help if you are unsafe or worried about your housing situation.

A court may be able to issue an injunction in court to exclude a violent partner or ex. Find out more from Citizens Advice about the process of going to court.

If you're married or in a civil partnership

Even if you've ended your rental agreement legally and your ex partner has left, they may still be able to apply to court to get back into the property if you're still married or in a civil partnership.

These rights will normally end if you divorce or dissolve your civil partnership.

If you can’t come to an agreement you can ask a family law solicitor for legal advice.

Leaving at the end of a fixed term tenancy

If you both decide to move out by the last day of your fixed term contract your tenancy and rental liability will normally end. Check your tenancy agreement to find out whether you need to give notice.

If one of you stays past the end date

The remaining tenant should sign a new agreement with the landlord. You should sort this out before the end date of your existing tenancy.

Most tenants have an assured shorthold tenancy. If you have this type of tenancy, no new agreement is signed and one of you stays, your agreement will automatically continue as a periodic tenancy.

This means you will both be liable for rent.

Leaving your fixed term tenancy early

If you have a fixed term agreement (for example, for 6 or 12 months), you both need to agree to leave your tenancy early. If you both agree, you can either:

  • use a break clause if your contract has one
  • negotiate with your landlord

If one of you wants to stay you still need to end the tenancy properly. The person staying should sort out a new agreement. If they don’t you will both be liable for rent.

When you can’t agree on what to do

If you don’t end the tenancy you remain jointly responsible for the rent even if one of you leaves.

In a joint tenancy you are liable for rent arrears caused by you or any other tenant. This is called joint and several liability

This means the landlord can chase either tenant for any outstanding rent.

If you are left in the property

If you are left in the property and can’t afford the rent, you may be able to claim universal credit or housing benefit if you're on a low income.

You could discuss other options with your landlord such as a rent reduction or finding replacement tenants.

If you leave and can’t afford to keep paying rent

Your landlord might not choose to pursue you for rent. If they do and you had a good relationship with them, try explaining your situation. They may agree a compromise.

If you can't come to an agreement with them, your landlord may take action. This could mean taking you to court.


Last updated 23 Aug 2019 | © Shelter

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